The science of love

We call it love. It feels like love. But the most exhilarating of all human emotions is probably nature’s beautiful way of keeping the human species alive and reproducing.

With an irresistible cocktail of chemicals, our brain entices us to fall in love. We believe we’re choosing a partner. But we may merely be the happy victims of nature’s lovely plan.

The 3 stages of love

Helen Fisher of Rutgers University in the States has proposed 3 stages of love – lust, attraction and attachment. Each stage might be driven by different hormones and chemicals.

Stage 1: Lust

This is the first stage of love and is driven by the sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen – in both men and women.

Stage 2: Attraction

This is the amazing time when you are truly love-struck and can think of little else. Scientists think that three main neurotransmitters are involved in this stage; adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin.

Adrenaline

The initial stages of falling for someone activates your stress response, increasing your blood levels of adrenalin and cortisol. This has the charming effect that when you unexpectedly bump into your new love, you start to sweat, your heart races and your mouth goes dry.

Dopamine

Helen Fisher asked newly ‘love struck’ couples to have their brains examined and discovered they have high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This chemical stimulates ‘desire and reward’ by triggering an intense rush of pleasure. It has the same effect on the brain as taking cocaine!

Serotonin

And finally, serotonin. One of love’s most important chemicals that may explain why when you’re falling in love, your new lover keeps popping into your thoughts.

Stage 3: Attachment

Attachment is the bond that keeps couples together long enough for them to have and raise children. Scientists think there might be two major hormones involved in this feeling of attachment; oxytocin and vasopressin.

Oxytocin – The cuddle hormone

Oxytocin is a powerful hormone released by men and women during orgasm. It probably deepens the feelings of attachment and makes couples feel much closer to one another after they have had sex. The theory goes that the more sex a couple has, the deeper their bond becomes.

Vasopressin

Vasopressin is another important hormone in the long-term commitment stage and is released after sex.

Vasopressin (also called anti-diuretic hormone) works with your kidneys to control thirst. Its potential role in long-term relationships was discovered when scientists looked at the prairie vole.

Prairie voles indulge in far more sex than is strictly necessary for the purposes of reproduction. They also – like humans – form fairly stable pair-bonds.

When male prairie voles were given a drug that suppresses the effect of vasopressin, the bond with their partner deteriorated immediately as they lost their devotion and failed to protect their partner from new suitors.

Read on: www.youramazingbrain.org/lovesex/sciencelove.htm

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