The ancient Greeks called it the “madness of the gods” and has been
given many definitions that are less than positive. The author Sherwood
Anderson called it the “accident of life.” These were words written in an
article by Judith Newman, titled “The Science of Love.”
What I find fascinating is that along with scientists studying germs,
diseases and trying to find cures, they have studied Love! There are
some definite interesting findings and I hope that you will enjoy sharing
these with me. If you have any additions or subtractions, feel free to
mention your “research” and “analysis!”
When researchers use MRI’s to look at brain activity, ones who declare
they are “in love” are more likely to have hormones and neurological
reactions, triggering all over the brain. There are 4 compounds, dopamine,
norepinephrine, oxytocin, and serotonin. Each play a different role in the
process that is so complex, I may only outline the parts I understood
while reading in a few different areas.
Dopamine does equate with addiction. You are truly focused on your
loved one, you are desiring more time with him or her, too. While
together, dopamine is released as a pleasurable reward that your
brain gives you a “high” from. But, to deflate the loving the opposite
sex a little, this can also happen while eating chocolates, hitting a
hole in one or jumping out of an airplane! Liquor lowers inhibitions
along with suspicion of increasing dopamine. I think that there are
several people who would agree that alcohol played some part in
an anniversary celebration or an initial intimate moment! Dopamine
is associated with a “high” that is from engaging in risky behavior.
There you go!
Norepinephrine is attributed with extra energy, which accounts for
those all night dancing, then eating and lying under the stars sharing
thoughts, those exciting moments in a budding romance! It is also
attributed to sleeplessness, elation, loss of appetite and “butterflies
in the stomach.” Sounds like my first crushes!
Serotonin is a neurochemical that creates feelings of calm, that
seems like an unusual reaction to love! Well, as I read further,
it turns out, that we have LOWER levels of serotonin during
our beginning stages of love. This can be extrapolated into
why we are anxious for the phone to ring, obsessive while
thinking about our beloved.
Oh, great! this fact will thrill those who wish to not gain any
weight! In 2004, a study of 24 young people in Italy, at the
University of Pisa, were found to have higher levels of the
stress hormone, which is called cortisol than those who
were not in love. This seems like a small pool of people to
base this study on, but very interesting. I have always read
that “happy” people gain weight. So, this goes hand in had with
the Italian study. More pasta, anyone?
Some studies have verified that men’s testosterone levels are
lowered while in a state of “love” while women’s have been
raised. This is funny, when you think about it! Men can be
“tamed” and women can be more “wild!”
Oxytocin is the lovely way that a woman creates a bond during
breastfeeding. It is “the hormone of attachment and emotional
empathy.” Can you imagine this? They have been able to give
a person an intranasal oxytocin and then the person will look
more deeply into the eyes of the person they love, along with
feeling a greater sense of trust!
When we talk about “not feeling it” or people “aren’t that into
another,” we are talking “Chemistry!” Some scientists attribute
this to pheromones. The messengers that influence the behavior
and mood of others, which we exude. I have liked a man simply
because he smelled good, not the cologne or after shave, but
the odor of their sweat or skin with just clean water. No soap.
By the way, it has been a long time since I saw 1992’s “Scent of a
Woman.” (Al Pacino, Chris O’Donnell, and Gabrielle Anwar, with
Phillip Seymour Hoffman) It won several Academy Awards, also
had some beautiful messages about love!
Wasn’t that a great movie?
Pheromones are still considered controversial and not proven
to exist. I just was giving a personal flavor and thought to the
possibility that we are drawn to someone besides outer surface
attraction, but a deeper connection. That makes me feel like it
becomes more like we are “meant to be together.”
The good news I discovered for all those long term couples out
there: even after many years of loving the same person, there
is still a greater activation in serotonin and elevated calmness,
along with pleasurable feelings, too. Pictures of their loved ones
brought images (brain scans) of higher levels of dopamine. That
combination creates a secure and longlasting phase of love.
Cheers to forever love!