Fellow learners and teachers,

Our psychology class is back!

Today, we are asking the question, “What happens in the brain when you fall in love”?

 

Photo credit: Bright Side

 

Love is something so many of us relate to.

It comes in a variety of ways to us.

But for today, we are going to focus on romantic variety of it.

The kind you feel, attracted to somebody else other than your family or friend.

 

Photo credit: Medical News Today

 

As it is always said, romantic love involves a series of complex changes in the reward system of the brain which makes us want more the object of our affection!

But, how does this science all fit in and work?

 

Photo credit: TIME

 

According to a publication at Harvard Medical School, it is said that, “when we are falling in love, chemicals associated with the reward circuit flood our brain, producing a variety of physical and emotional responses—racing hearts, sweaty palms, flushed cheeks, feelings of passion and anxiety.

Levels of the stress hormone cortisol increase during the initial phase of romantic love, marshaling our bodies to cope with the “crisis” at hand. As cortisol levels rise, levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin become depleted.

Low levels of serotonin precipitate what Schwartz described as the “intrusive, maddeningly preoccupying thoughts, hopes, terrors of early love”—the obsessive-compulsive behaviors associated with infatuation”.

 

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“Being love-struck also releases high levels of dopamine, a chemical that “gets the reward system going,” said Olds.

Dopamine activates the reward circuit, helping to make love a pleasurable experience similar to the euphoria associated with use of cocaine or alcohol.”

 

Photo credit: Tufts

 

Now, serotonin is a chemical that carries messages between nerve cells in the brain and throughout your body!

Other chemicals at work during romantic love are oxytocin and vasopressin, hormones that have roles in pregnancy, nursing, and mother-infant attachment.

 

Photo credit: The Anatomy Of Love

 

Released during sex and heightened by skin-to-skin contact, oxytocin deepens feelings of attachment and makes couples feel closer to one another after having sex.

Oxytocin, known also as the love hormone, provokes feelings of contentment, calmness, and security, which are often associated with mate bonding.

 

Photo credit: HealthyPlace

 

Vasopressin is linked to behavior that produces long-term, monogamous relationships.

Vasopressin is a hormone scientifically known to play essential roles in the control of the body’s osmotic balance, blood pressure regulation, sodium homeostasis, and kidney functioning.

 

Photo credit: HelloGiggles

 

The phrase “love is blind” is a very familiar one, right?

This is why, according to Schwartz.

Brace yourself….it gets really scientific and botanic from here on out;

 

Photo credit: Glamour

 

“In addition to the positive feelings romance brings, love also deactivates the neural pathway responsible for negative emotions, such as fear and social judgment.

These positive and negative feelings involve two neurological pathways. The one linked with positive emotions connects the prefrontal cortex to the nucleus accumbens, while the other, which is linked with negative emotions, connects the nucleus accumbens to the amygdala.

When we are engaged in romantic love, the neural machinery responsible for making critical assessments of other people, including assessments of those with whom we are romantically involved, shuts down. “That’s the neural basis for the ancient wisdom ‘love is blind”!

 

Photo credit: Calisphere

 

In our second part of our class (What Happens In The Brain When You Fall In Love? ),

We will be looking at love that lasts a long time.

For example, how is it that some people remain strongly in love decades after they have been together in marriage?

 

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Or, what makes couples that haven’t even been together for two years, fall so quickly out of love?