All you need is love. Or so they say so many songs, movies and books. But what has the love that changes our lives, behavior and even concentration? Beyond the romantic explanations, neuroscience has a lot to say about it and it is that falling in love implies brain changes so drastic that they continue to be the source of lots of scientific studies. In this article we will see some of these changes.
- 1 What is love?
- 2 An avalanche of hormones
- 3 Love acts like a drug
- 4 The different stages of love and heartbreak
- 5 Love, it can last a lifetime
What is love?
There are lots of explanations about what love is, from the most literary, to others based on biology. In this case, we focus on the explanation given for TED by Helen Fisher, anthropologist, researcher and writer of various scientific books on sexuality and love, among many other subjects.
According to Fisher, the love It is the union of three components. The first component is the passion and it is related to sexual gratification. The second is the romantic love, related to euphoria and "obsession" by the loved one and the third is the fellowship, related to the feeling of calm being with someone. Love is therefore a balanced combination between these three factors, which affect brain functioning.
An avalanche of hormones
When we fall in love, our brain experiences a great hormonal alteration, an authentic avalanche of hormones that make us feel everything with greater intensity. One of these hormones that increases is the oxytocin, also known as the hormone love ”, a fascinating neuropeptide produced by the hypothalamus that is involved in processes of pleasure, learning and memory, as well as in maternal and sexual behavior.
Love also produces an increase in sex hormones such as estrogen or testosteroneas well as the adrenalin, which makes the heart beat faster. This has consequences on the intensity with which we feel the feelings of excitement and euphoria, among other sensations.
Love acts like a drug
In the words of Helen Fisher: "Romantic love is an obsession, it possesses you." This means that when we fall in love, our brain behaves as it would with any addictive substance: We cannot think of anything other than the loved one and we feel bad when we are not close.
This happens because falling in love activates the brain reward system in the same way that some addictive drugs would. Specifically, falling in love activates the ventral tegmental area, a very important region in the reward system in which A10 cells are found, which begin the production process of dopamine and other transmitters that reach the nucleus accumbens. Also the nucleus accumbens, a brain region known as the "center of pleasure", is more active in people in love, as well as the insula, another region that is responsible for assigning value to pleasant activities. These are the areas that are also activated in people addicted to drugs like cocaine or heroin.
Contact or mere association with the loved one activates the brain dopaminergic reinforcement system provoking us an uncontrollable desire to remain with the beloved person and this is what makes the lovers have some behaviors that resemble to some extent obsessive behaviors.
The different stages of love and heartbreak
The stages of love make our brain change in one way or another. It can be perceived through functional magnetic resonance imaging, which when we fall in love our brain shows a great activity in the reward center of the brain, as we talked before. However, ruptures achieve a sharp decrease in this activity, as well as reward expectations.
Love, it can last a lifetime
According to a study published in 2011 in the prestigious magazine Journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, love can last longer than we believe. The researchers found the same similarities in brains of people recently in love, as well as in couples who had been together for many years.
Specifically, the activity of ventral tegmental nucleus It showed a great response to images of the loved one for a long time, compared to the activation caused by photos of friends or other people. In fact, against more lovers were the couples who obtained the highest score in questionnaires about love in their relationships, the greater the activity in this area. That is why, contrary to what commonly occurs, there are some couples who maintain love during very long relationships. Be that as it may and last as long as it lasts, the important thing is to enjoy this important emotion in the healthiest and most balanced way possible.