April 2022

Wired for Love

By Stephanie Cacioppo
Interspersing memoir with research, neuroscientist Stephanie Cacioppo offers a sprightly, illuminating look at the science of love and connection.
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Interspersing memoir with science writing, Stephanie Cacioppo leads readers through the brain science of love and connection in Wired for Love: A Neuroscientist’s Journey Through Romance, Loss, and the Essence of Human Connection. At 37, Cacioppo was already a lauded neuroscientist. She’d chosen to study the neuroscience of love, even though her faculty adviser in Geneva had warned her against it, calling it career suicide. Still, she persevered, earning research spots at Dartmouth and the Swiss National Foundation. She and her colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging to create a “map of love,” showing that the brain reacts to love in complex ways and that romantic feelings of love affect the brain differently than friendship or parental love.

Even so, Cacioppo had never fallen in love, or even had a serious boyfriend. Instead, she decided that her passion would be for work. Then, at a conference in Shanghai, she met John Cacioppo, a University of Chicago social neuroscientist who’d done groundbreaking work on loneliness, establishing it as a dangerous health condition that is as bad for you as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. She felt an instant connection with him, despite the 20-year age difference. After a period of emailing, they began dating long-distance and meeting up at conferences.

They were married soon after. “Looking back, it’s unbelievable to me that neither of us were struck by the irony of our situation, that John and I, which is to say Dr. Love and Dr. Loneliness, were not practicing what we preached,” Cacioppo writes. “Our research, from opposite ends of the spectrum, emphasized the human need for social connection. And yet both of us had the hubris to think we could go it alone.” Once connected, each spouse’s work informed the other’s. They shared a desk at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, where they both worked, and at home.

A few years into their marriage, John was diagnosed with a deadly form of cancer. Cacioppo details the closeness they felt during his treatment, as well as her complicated grief after his death and her slow return to life. She is an engaging guide through the scientific portions of the book, and her own experiences of connection and loss enrich the narrative. Together, these intertwined strands of science and personal narrative make for a sprightly, illuminating book.

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Wired for Love

Wired for Love

By Stephanie Cacioppo
ISBN 9781250790606

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