Finding Love in Your DNA

Wouldn’t it be great if we could do away with  dating and failed relationships merely by  doing a DNA cheek swab? It sounds simple and pain free, doesn’t it? In our cells lurk genetic markers that just might indicate who is an ideal spouse and who is an utter cad.

My guest today, Peter Schattner, is an award-winning scientist, educator and writer with 30 years experience in molecular biology, genetics, biomedical instrumentation and physics. He is the author of numerous research articles, scientific reviews and a textbook. Sex, Love and DNA is his first book for nonscientists.  In his post below, Peter will explain a bit about research being done in this field and whether single people everywhere need to run out to take a DNA test.


Peter Schattner: How much would you pay to discover find out your partner’s genetic predisposition to kindness or to marital fidelity?

Sex Love and DNA FrontCoverV2In 2008, Genesis Biolabs, a small company in Arizona thought an appropriate price was $99 and claimed its genetic test would assess those qualities.

Unfortunately, deciphering the biological origins of human traits such as love or marital fidelity is not easy; our behavior is influenced by our individual experiences, something that can’t be measured by a genetic test. So in order to learn more about human love, scientists instead often study animals, hoping to get clues about how biology affects the experience of love in humans as well.

No animals have taught us more about loving behavior than small rodents called voles. Voles look a lot like mice, and in some places are referred to as field mice or meadow mice. Over 150 species of vole are described in the scientific literature. The DNA sequences of the species are similar, and so are their appearance and behavior.

But vole species also have striking differences, especially regarding what we might describe as feelings of love. In most vole species, the males are not exactly model lovers. Most male voles – such as male montane voles – are promiscuous, and after mating, they lose interest in their partners and move on in search of their next romantic conquest. These solitary creatures rarely make long-term associations even with other male voles. And certainly, they aren’t interested in wasting their time taking care of little vole pups (These are typical male behaviors in many species by the way, which may not surprise human females!).

Not all voles behave this way, however. Prairie voles, for instance, are very loving. Male and female prairie voles form long-term pair-bonds, and once pair-bonded, show little interest in new romantic partners. What could be the reason for this difference?

Love on the beach. Can voles tell us something about human sexuality?

Love on the beach. Can voles tell us something about human sexuality?

As montane voles and prairie voles already differ in social behavior at birth, their differences regarding pair-bonding and pup rearing likely reflect innate biological differences. Scientists focused on the voles’ sex hormones, including one called vasopressin, in their efforts to understand the differences between these two species.

To test vasopressin’s influence on voles, scientists injected male prairie voles with vasopressin. Now as I’ve mentioned, after mating, male prairie voles are devoted partners. Despite this fact (or perhaps because of it), male prairie voles take a while before selecting a female partner. Nevertheless, if a male prairie vole is injected with vasopressin, it’s as if he’s been shot by Cupid’s arrow. The next time he comes in contact with a female, the vole will act as if he has already bonded with her, even if they have never mated. Apparently, for male prairie voles, a shot of vasopressin has as big an impact on the psyche as sex.

The observation that hormones such as vasopressin affect pair-bonding and nurturing behavior in rodents raised the question whether they also influence human behavior. To explore this idea, a team of Swedish scientists tested whether people with an unusual genetic variant in a vasopressin-detecting protein might display different pair-bonding behavior. In their widely cited study, published in 2008, approximately 1000 human volunteers filled out questionnaires assessing their “pair-bonding status.” The Swedish study reported “statistically significant” correlations between self-reported pair-bonding history and gene variants in men, though the difference in the pair-bonding behavior between the two groups of men was actually quite small.

Prairie Voles Courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation

Prairie Voles Courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation

Nevertheless, the Swedish team’s results were intriguing enough to influence the world of 21st-century matchmaking. So many people want information on their perfect mate, that several companies have proposed genetic testing to find a better “match”. Although Genesis Biolabs went out of business in 2012, other companies – such as,, and have had more commercial success.

That said, the existence of these companies shouldn’t be construed as evidence that DNA-based matchmaking is actually useful. In the words of Larry Young of Emory University: “I do not believe that any service that claims to use genetic information, or any estimation of neurochemistry (based on personality or genotype) [to find a perfect romantic match] has any basis in reality.” And Professor Young is as likely to know as anyone; after all, it was his laboratory that carried out the key experiments on hormones and pair-bonding in voles in the first place.


schattnerAuthorImageThis essay is adapted from the chapter “What is Love?” from Peter Schattner’s recent book Sex, Love and DNA. Other book chapters explore how our biology affects our intelligence, athletic ability, sexuality, emotions and a wide range of other fundamental human traits. To read an excerpt please go to: Excerpt.



Nobody’s Valentine

Originally posted on Kiss and Thrill:

The year is only two months old and already I found myself in Books-A-Million making an impulse purchase. London journalist Paula Hawkins’s 2015 debut blockbuster and New York Times #1 bestseller THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN grabbed me from the moment I stepped up to the display of current bestsellers vying for attention.

Maybe it was the arresting cover (designed by Gretchen Achilles) that had me pulling the book off the shelf to get a closer look even though I have nine books on my must-read-before-I-buy-anything-else list. Or the cover quote by Tess Gerritsen: “So thrilling and tense and wildly unpredictable.” Wow!


Or maybe it was the title. The Girl on the Train. For a whole year back in my mid-twenties, I was a girl on a train, commuting from my home in Connecticut to my job in New York City. Paula Hawkins stated in an NPR interview that the…

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Laura Griffin on her new book Beyond Limits, research, and Navy SEALs

Originally posted on Kiss and Thrill:

An FBI agent and a Navy SEAL race against time in New York Times bestselling author Laura Griffin’s newest Tracers novel.

Beyond Limits book coverLaura Griffin’s latest book, BEYOND LIMITS is out today! To celebrate, she agreed to hang out at Kiss and Thrill and answer a few questions about the new book and her writing process. She’s also giving away a signed copy of SCORCHED—the RITA Award winning book where Derek and Elizabeth first meet—to a lucky commenter.

I’m already counting the hours until I can pull out my iPad at the gym and start reading…

GH: Happy release day! Thanks for joining us on K&T. We appreciate the chance to get into your head a bit. ;-) Your early books were focused on characters working in or around law enforcement. The new books still have that element, but you’ve added Navy SEALs to the mix. What is it about these…

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Darynda Jones Prize Winner!

I know I’ve dragged this out quite some time. Two weeks doesn’t sound like much, unless you’re waiting with bated breath for me to post something — anything — about who won the delectable prize of reading a Darynda Jones Eighth Grave After Dark ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) well before anyone else.

Diana and Darynda

So, without more ado, and before I sound like that cute guy who promised to call, and possibly never did — the winner is (drum roll please) …


Congratulations to her. Please contact me within ten days to collect your prize. And to everyone else who entered, please forgive me. I know this is a really yummy prize, but there will be many more chances to win cool stuff here at and also at


But at least as a consolation prize, here is the great new cover for Eighth Grave After Dark! You can use the link at the top of the post to preorder right now. And don’t forget these last two wonderful books in Darynda’s Grim Reaper Series.


I wish I had a book to give each and every one of you.  You’re my fans and I love you that much. But among the several  thousands who read, commented and followed on two sites, that just cannot be. But, take heart, I know Darynda will be back, so you’ll all have another chance then, and her book will be out this May.

Have fun, and keep reading!




Martin Luther King Jr: Celebrating his Life, his Legacy, his Libary

I admire Martin Luther King tremendously. He was a man who embodied the true American spirit believing that all men should be free. Using civil disobedience — peaceful protest — his words and actions sparked tremendous change and brought the attention of a nation to the needs of citizens who were being treated abominably.


Portrait of MLK at Washington, DC’s central library which is named in his honor.


Much like the patriots, he sparked a revolution of his own — yet no matter how provoked, his strong and gentle spirit knew that violence wasn’t the answer. He was a man of learning, and like his father and his grandfather before him, he graduated from Morehouse College. At Crozer Theological Seminary he was elected President of his predominantly white senior class before going on to receive his doctorate from Boston University.

The author of five books and numerous articles, Dr. King borrowed from Christian teachings and the methodology of Ghandi to create change in a positive way. He motivated an entire region to boycott buslines for their discriminatory practices. His achievements were recognized world wide and for them he received the Nobel Peace Prize.  I wish we had another leader like him today.

(Please click on a photo to enlarge the gallery.)

In the spirt of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I’d like to bring my readers on a virtual visit to the memorial here in D.C. No, not the big marble memorial — though it’s lovely and I’ll do a post on that another day — but Washington, D.C.’s main library that was named in his honor. Somehow, I think it might be the memorial MLK would have liked best.

*The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library – Central Library is open 7 days a week and is located at 901 G St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001 and is across from the National Gallery and the Chinatown/Gallery Place Metro station.



Darynda Jones: Snarky Sayings and Grim (Reaper) Secrets

Darynda Jones has a secret. On paper, her alter ego Charley Davidson is snarky, sex-mad, able to kick paranormal foes DJONES001-2in their paranormal behinds. In real life, Darynda is probably one of the sweetest people you’ve ever met. She has a humble, self-deprecating humor, she’ll tell you all her writing secrets as if they don’t amount to much, and she’s more likely to talk about her kids than her books.

Is it no wonder I love this gal?

You’ll love her even more because Darynda is giving one reader who leaves a comment below, here or at, an ARC — yes that’s right — an ADVANCE READER’s COPY of her book number 8!  

Eighth Grave After Dark isn’t out until May, and though you might have to wait a bit to get the ARC, you’ll be in the know with reviewers across the country who get the book months in advance!   So leave us your best bit of snark, or tell us why you love Darynda, or why you want to read her book, and we’ll let you know who won next week. 

Here are some things you might not know about her:

*Awards: Darynda has won 11 awards, including the Daphne du Maurier, the RITA, the Bookie Award (three times!), 2 HOLT Medallions, the Golden Heart, the GOTCHA, The PASIC, and the Rebeca (LERA).

*Genre: Darynda has written in a ton of genres, even though they’re not all published, including historical!

*Education: She’s a Summa cum Laude graduate and has a BA in Sign Language Interpreting.

*Eighth Grave After Dark will be out on May 19th and Darynda will also be in an anthology, Dark Screams, Volume 3 which will be out on May 12th. Steven King was in Volume 1 and there will be a collector’s edition available, too, with all 25 authors signatures. Our gal is now in the same league as Steven King — but we all knew that already, right?

I sat down with Darynda to discuss her Grim Reaper Charley Davidson series that launched with the mega-best seller First Grave on the Right. She also speaks about how she writes humor and bubbles snark on the page and gives up secrets about her newest series.


(If the video doesn’t play properly, please update your Adobe.)

Darynda’s latest books are Sixth Grave on the Edge, and Seventh Grave and No Body, I know you’ll love them!

Don’t forget to leave your comment below or at to be eligible for the drawing for an Advance Reader’s Copy of Eighth Grave After Dark! A comment left on both websites will be counted twice, and if you follow either blog, you qualify for up to two more entries! So commenting in both places and following both blogs gives you four chances to win. (If you already follow, you’re already entered one time.) 

( UPDATE: The contest is now closed)

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Treasure at the Washington Winter Show

A jazz group played in the foyer, white jacketed waiters served delicacies, and champagne sparkled in flutes at the bar. Was this a fancy society wedding? No, it was the preview party for the the Washington Winter Show is underway this weekend at the Katzen Art Center at American University. Best of all, it’s proceeds go to help children and families at risk in the Washington, DC area.

It’s well worth braving the cold to visit the booths and examine some real treasures. Whether you can afford it or not (which I cannot ), seeing sparkling jewelry, Chinese kimonos, and oversized Bison bones from the Pleistocene are fascinating.

(all photos (c) Diana Belchase 2015)

I interviewed three dealers: Jay Gates of Gates Antiques who describes how an English, Dutch marquetry cabinet was made, Judy Loto of Russack & Loto Books, who talks about why it’s important to collect books about collecting, and finally William Hutchison of William Hutchison Books, who shows us a family inscribed edition of Ulysses S. Grant’s autobiography and a gorgeous edition of Shakespeare’s comedies.

The Washington Winter show runs from January 9-11, 2015 and is at American University’s Katzen Art Center, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC. Tickets are $20 and go to raise funds for at risk children and families in Washington, D. C.