Love On The Brain

Transcript of Neuro Nugget Video:

Love may well be one of the most studied but least understood behaviors. More than 20 years ago, the biological anthropologist, Helen Fisher, studied 166 societies and found evidence of romantic love, you know, the kind that leaves one breathless and euphoric, in 147 of them. When we are falling in love, chemicals associated with the reward circuit flood our brain producing a variety of physical and emotional responses, racing hearts sweaty palms, flushed cheeks, feelings of passion and anxiety.

Levels of the stress hormone cortisol increase during the initial phase of romantic love, marshaling our bodies to cope with sort of the crisis at hand. As cortisol levels rise, levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin become depleted. Low levels of serotonin precipitate what has been described as those intrusive, preoccupying thoughts, hopes, the terrors of love. You know, those obsessive-compulsive behaviors that are associated with infatuation. Being love struck also releases high levels of dopamine, a chemical that gets the reward system in the brain going.

Dopamine activates the reward circuit, helping to make love a pleasurable experience similar to the euphoria associated with the use of cocaine or alcohol. Other chemicals that work during romantic love are oxytocin and vasopressin. These are hormones that have roles in pregnancy, nursing and mother/infant attachment. Oxytocin known as the love hormone, or the cuddle hormone, provokes feelings of contentment, calmness, security, which are often associated with mate bonding. Vasopressin is linked to behavior that produces long-term monogamous relationships. The differences in behavior associated with the actions of these two hormones may explain why passionate love fades as attachment grows.

In addition to the positive feelings that romance brings, love also deactivates the neural pathway responsible for negative emotions such as fear and social judgment. These positive and negative feelings involve two neurological pathways. The one linked with positive emotions connects the prefrontal cortex to the nucleus accumbens, while the other which is linked with negative emotions connects the nucleus accumbens to the amygdala. When we are engaged in romantic love, the neural machinery responsible for making critical assessments of other people, including assessments of those whom we are romantically involved, actually shuts down. The neural basis for the ancient wisdom, love is blind, comes from this fact.

Wanna learn more about your brain and how it functions? Call and schedule your Brain Map today.


Posted on

February 8, 2023