How The Brain Works When You’re In Love!
Is It The Heart Or The Brain?
While love is a basic emotion, it is still debated, whether it is the heart or the brain that is involved in love. The symbol to represent love is heart-shaped. It is also the heart that starts racing when we see our loved one!
These examples would suggest that the heart is indeed the organ of the body involved in love. However, several scientific studies point towards the brain as being the organ, actively involved in love, as there are specific parts of the brain, which get activated when in love and there are several chemicals (neurotransmitters) that get released in the brain, when one is in love.
Researchers have performed functional MRI scans to determine the areas of the brain involved in love. New couples were asked to look at the pictures of people whom they loved, while the functional MAI was performed. The MRI showed that the limbic areas of the brain lit up when they looked at the pictures of their loved ones.
The Stages Of Romantic Love
There are also various chemicals that are involved in various levels of love and usually, romantic love can be classified into three levels or stages: lust, attraction and attachment.
FIRST STAGE (LUST)
This often happens at ‘first sight’ and is controlled by the sex hormones namely testosterone and oestrogen (produced by testes and ovaries respectively). The brain does not have much of a role to play at this stage.
SCECOND STAGE (ATTRACTION)
This is an amazing period when lovers cannot think of anything else, except love and the three main chemicals or neurotransmitters involved during this stage of attraction are dopamine, adrenaline and serotonin. In the early stages of love, there is excitement as well as stress. There is this unknown fear of losing that special one’s love and also the anxiety to show the best part of oneself to please the other person.
During this phase, adrenaline and cortisol are the main chemicals produced in the brain. It is the adrenaline effect,’ when on seeing the loved one, the heart starts to pound, breathing becomes heavy and you start sweating. Dopamine is the other chemical produced in this stage of love, which kindles desire and reward, by generating a powerful rush of pleasure.
THIRD STAGE (ATTACHMENT)
When a couple successfully clears the previous two levels of being in love, bonding becomes more powerful and there is increased trust and faith between each other. Attachment sees through a definite falling in love and instigates feelings of siring children. Two main chemicals involved in this stage of love, are vasopressin and oxytocin.
Cuddle hormone or oxytocin is released similarly, by both women and men especially during an orgasm, It is also released during skin contact with the partner. Oxytocin determines the gravity of love and strengthens the attachment between partners after sexual intercourse.
It also promotes feelings of security, calmness and contentment that are connected to mate bonding. Thus the theory goes that, the more sex a couple has, the deeper their bond becomes.
The Role Of Oxytocin And Vasopressin
Social communication with your partner often requires mind reading or deducing the faint hints that are apparent to you in your partner’s behaviour. It is always a nice feeling when your spouse understands your desire, based on your external expressions, before being explicitly told. Oxytocin plays a vital role in enhancing the mind reading ability of an individual by just looking at his/her partner’s eyes.
Vasopressin is another hormone involved in the long-term commitment stage and is released after sex. It promotes a long-term relationship with a single partner and also leads one to protect his/her spouse and enhances trust and security.
Several theories of love conclude that there is inevitable change in the pattern of love over the years, varying from passionate romantic love to compassionate love. So, though the love is deeply rooted, it doesn’t have the euphoria of the initial days. Also, the levels of adrenaline and cortisol decline and return to their normal levels in a span of one-two years.
The levels of oxytocin and vasopressin on the other hand, rise. However, it is not a fixed rule and it is also possible to be madly, irrevocably in love even after two-three decades of being in a relationship. Regular sexual activity is one such driver of long-term passion, by increasing the levels of oxytocin and vasopressin.
It can be believed that feelings of love are the most pleasurable ones in our lives. It is also true that, ‘love is blind’ because it can happen unexpectedly at anytime, anywhere and with any person, as a variety of chemicals play an important part in influencing the feelings of lust, attraction and attachment between couples.