Published on November 25th, 2012 | by No Artificial
Love And The Brain
What happens to the brain when we fall in love?
One of the most frequent and least fully understood of human emotions, love has intrigued philosophers, poets, scientists and historians alike for hundreds of years.
Today in our era we know more than ever about the chemistry of attachment and the psychology of affection.
All relationships change the brain. A healthy romance can promote longevity, overall physical and mental health, and faster recovery from illness. But experiences of heartbreak and rejection can lead to actual physical pain responses in the body.
Just recently researchers at Syracuse University have exposed the fonts of desire by comparing functional MRI studies of people who showed they were experiencing passionate love, maternal love or unconditional love. Together, the regions release neurotransmitters and other chemicals in the brain, such as oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin and blood that prompt increased euphoric sensations such as attraction, pleasure and trust.
Passion also boosts several cognitive functions, as the brain regions and chemicals surge. “It’s all about how that network interacts,” says Stephanie Ortigue, an assistant professor of psychology at Syracuse University, who led the research. The cognitive functions, in turn, “are triggers that fully activate the love network.”
Graphics by James W. Lewis, West Virginia University (brain), and Jen Christiansen.
Why do we crave love so much?
Anthropologist Helen Fisher studies gender differences and the evolution of human emotions. She believes love is an addiction. We desire love; we go through withdrawal from love; we relapse into love; we pursue love at all costs. We may be predisposed to develop this addiction.
The latest episode of “Super Brain” on The Chopra Well YouTube channel features a discussion between Deepak Chopra and neuroscientist Rudy Tanzi on love and the brain.
They believe that brain doesn’t fall in love, rather we do. Something in us determines to make that first contact, to open our hearts to vulnerability and see our dearest as more than an object of evolutionary necessity. We commit the same follies time and again, but also learn and adapt consistently as we go. No two loves are the same. You could possibly feel as though truly love just happens to you, mysteriously. But you are the mindful agent that activates what would otherwise only be a seed of possibility.
So, what will you do with your extraordinary and natural capacity to love? It’s nothing short of brave to allow yourself to love.