Our brain on love
Every song, movie and book has told us to love with our hearts, but research might show that we should really be loving with our brains. How do our brains react to that long-term love? That new crush? Are we more forgetful or more focused? Do we beam with confidence or cower with anxiety?
It’s time to find out what’s really going on upstairs when love strikes, giving us that unmatchable feeling of immense euphoric glee.
Fools (and hormones) rush in
Would you believe it if ‘’love at first sight” had some validity? It’s true. When you first fall in love and that feeling rushes over your body from head to toe – that’s a slew of hormones going to work, including oxytocin (the love hormone), dopamine (the pleasure hormone), adrenaline (the energy hormone) and estrogen and testosterone (the sex hormones). Combine all these players and your body goes from calm and collected to fluttery and flabbergasted.
Gonna have to face it you’re addicted to love
Robert Palmer’s one-hit wonder in 1986 was surprisingly based on actual truth. All those feelings of falling in love – the yearnings and obsessive feelings, that desire to spend every waking moment with your partner or crush – sounds like an addiction, right? That’s because it is. Newfound neuroscience research has discovered that love is a drug. How? It activates the same system in the brain as other drug addictions, like cocaine and heroin. Imagine that. Love is as addictive as cocaine, yet you ingest no foreign substance into your body. Huey Lewis and the News were right, that’s “the power of love.”
Focus on me
When love sinks its adoring claws into your soft neural tissue, serotonin has been shown to plummet. This nosedive effect is also congruent with obsessive-compulsive disorder, which could explain why those who are love struck project a single-minded focus on the object of their heart and head’s affection. It’s a one-track mind kind of world for those under the influence of love’s drug.
The risk and reward of love
One of the main reasons falling in love feels so good, other than all the other euphoric hormones and bodily chemicals that are firing on cylinders is because of the part in our brain associated with rewards. Who doesn’t like to get rewarded? That same feeling of accomplishment is what conquering love feels like, and consequently breaking up decreases activity in that reward center of the brain, similar to how we perceive failure.
Whether you’re in the puppy love faze or the veteran married department, studies have found they both share similar activity in certain regions of the brain. This shared love stimulus has helped researchers conclude that these love-stimulated brain regions are the key to finding out how some couples stay truly, madly, deeply in love for decades.
All of these studies and findings may have uncovered more about love than we once knew, but the truth of the matter is that love will forever be a mystery. Why people do the things they do in the name of love can never be truly answered. And that’s what makes love so beautiful.