What The Newly Discovered "Kiss Hormone" Means For Our Sex Lives

illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
We may not generally talk about it openly in our sex-obsessed culture, but a low libido is a worry for many people. There are so many potential factors behind it – from stress and poor body image to underlying medical issues – that there are currently no widely approved ways of treating it, either.
But scientists have just made a huge discovery that sheds light on how the brain controls sex – and could potentially be game-changing for women with low sexual desire.
The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, identified a brain chemical, known as kisspeptin, that controls both attraction to the opposite sex and sexual behaviour. The hormone, dubbed the 'kiss hormone', has been previously associated with sexual behaviour (specifically puberty and fertility), but the new findings suggest it also drives our attraction to the opposite sex.
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This means the same molecule, kisspeptin, controls puberty, fertility, attraction and sex. (It's unclear how or whether the findings of the study, which was conducted on female mice, could explain attraction and sexual behaviour in same-sex relationships.)
The research team, from Belgium's Liège University and Saarland University in Germany, said they were optimistic that the discovery could be useful in treating people with psychosexual disorders, such as low sex drive.
"There are currently no good treatments available for women suffering from low sexual desire," said Professor Julie Bakker, who leads the Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology at Liège University. She continued: "The discovery that kisspeptin controls both attraction and sexual desire opens up exciting new possibilities for the development of treatments for low sexual desire," reported EurekAlert.
We already know that, in many animals, "sexual behaviour is timed to occur with ovulation to ensure the highest possible chance of fertilisation and therefore, continuation of the species," said Ulrich Boehm, professor of experimental and clinical pharmacology and toxicology at Saarland University.
"Until now, little was known about how the brain ties together ovulation, attraction and sex. Now we know that a single molecule – kisspeptin – controls all of these aspects through different brain circuits running in parallel with one another."
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