Graphic Illustration by Claire Roth

Love is in the brain


Where your butterflies get their wings

By Claire Roth

Like it or not, we as human beings are wired to fall in love, or at least to feel as though we are. That gooey, wonderful, frightening, upside-down-stomach feeling is actually your brain using the processes of chemistry against your good senses.

According to biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, the three stages of falling in love are lust, attraction and attachment.

Lust, involves some of our most primal hormones, estrogen and testosterone. These hormones are present in both men and women. They are responsible for the intense initial attraction when you first see someone without actually knowing who they are.

Attraction, the second stage of falling for someone, is to blame for the times that you can’t think of anything else but the individual that you are crushing on and find yourself thinking of them when you have more pressing matters to focus on. According to an article in BBC Science, this distracting phenomenon is due to monoamines. Monoamine are compounds that are groups of neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters include three chemicals that are responsible for making you notice that special someone: dopamine, adrenalin and serotonin. Each chemical has a different effect on the body. Dopamine makes you feel like you want something and gives you a feeling of happiness and satisfaction when you get it. Adrenalin is what makes your heart beat harder and faster when you see your honey walking your way. Serotonin mainly affects your mood and concentration, specifically causing you to want to concentrate on nothing else but that one special person.

When you feel as though you’ve become attached to someone, you’ve entered into the  third stage of falling in love. This stage is referenced as what can make or break couples in the long run; if both partners feel attached to one another they have most likely reached a level of emotional balance and need for each other.

Two hormones from the nervous system, vasopressin and oxytocin, are largely involved with the stage of attachment. Vasopressin helps to create a bond between two partners and has been associated with monogamy. It has been observed in species such as the prairie vole that practice monogamous relationships. Oxytocin is released by the brain during important lifetime bonding experiences such as during childbirth when it is released by the hypothalamus in the brain. The chemical also helps to form a bond between partners when an extended amount of time is spent together.

Almost everyone experiences crushes and love at one time or another in their lifetime. However, the next time you’re thinking of using that ‘we’ve got chemistry’ pick-up line, make sure to give some thought to the actual truth or falsehood behind that statement.

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