The science behind Love

When we think of the scientific basis of how love works on our body, we often tend to think a few questions, for example- Why do you fantasize someone? What does ‘love’ do to your body, and is falling in love just nature’s way to make our species survive? Well, by the end of this post, all such queries shall be answered.

When in love…
Its not uncommon to find flushed cheeks, a racing heart beat and clammy hands as open signs of being ‘in love’. Everyone calls it ‘love’, the most exhilarating of all human emotions is probably nature’s beautiful way of keeping the human species alive and reproducing.
When it comes to love it seems we are at the mercy of our biochemistry. In the body, there are sure-shot chemical signs when that cupid has seemingly fired his red arrow. With an unimaginable mix of biochemicals, our brain entices us to go ahead with this silly but ecstatic thing. A person believes that they’re choosing a potential partner. But they may be mere crazy victims of the Almighty’s amazing plan.
How does it really happen?
It’s not about what you speak or do.
Psychologists noticed that it takes between 90 seconds and 4 minutes to figure out if you like someone ‘that way’.
Research has shown this has little to do with what is said, rather
55% is via body language.
38% is the speech tone and speed.
Only 7% was through what they said.
When a person is attracted to somebody, it could be because subconsciously their genes look appealing. Smell could be implicated as well, when it comes to the X-factor. There’s something very endearing about the look and fragrance of people who are most like our kins.

The 3 stages of love.
One cool research in this field has been done by a certain Dr. Helen Fisher of Rutgers University, New Jersey. She proposed that humans fall in love in three stages, each involving different body hormones.

Stage 1: Lust
This first stage of love is driven by the sex hormones, testosterone and oestrogen in both sexes.

Stage 2: Attraction
When you are truly love-struck and can think of little else, its a feeling of being on cloud 9. Scientists figured that three predominant neurotransmitters involved in this stage are adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin.

A) Adrenaline
The initial stages of falling in love activates the innate fight or flight response, increasing levels of adrenalin and cortisol in blood. This has the funny effect that when you unexpectedly bump into your new love, you start to sweat, heart beats faster and mouth goes dry.

B) Dopamine
Helen Fisher made newly ‘love struck’ couples to get examined and discovered they have high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This chemical stimulates ‘desire and reward’ feeling by triggering an intense rush of pleasure with increased energy, less need for sleep or food, focused attention and exquisite delight in smallest details of this new found feeling. It has a similar effect on the brain as taking some narcotic drug!

C) Serotonin
Undoubtedly, one of love’s most important chemicals that may explain why when you’re ‘falling in love’, your new lover keeps flashing on and off in every little while in your thoughts like strobe lights.

Stage 3: Attachment
Attachment is the bond that keeps couples together long enough for them to have and raise progeny. Scientists think there might be role of two main hormones in this; oxytocin and vasopressin.

A) Oxytocin
This so called ‘cuddle hormone’ is a powerful hormone released by men and women while orgasm. It may deepens the feelings of attachment and makes couples feel much closer to one another after they have sexual intercourse. There’s also a hypothesis that it deepens the bond after each sexual act. It otherwise functions to assist natural childbirth process, and later is released for breastfeeding and to help cement the strong bond between mother and baby.

B) Vasopressin
Another important hormone in the long-term commitment stage and is released after sex.

Does love change the way you think?
A pioneer experiment in Pisa, Italy showed that initially, love (the attraction phase) does change the manner in which you may otherwise normally think.

Psychiatrist Dr. Donatella Marazziti at the University of Pisa called twenty couples who were ‘madly’ in love in less than past six months to see if the brain mechanisms that cause them to constantly think about their lover, were anyway related to the brain mechanisms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). On studying blood samples from the lovers, she discovered that their serotonin levels were equivalent to the low serotonin levels of OCD patients.

Does Love needs to be blind?
Honestly, yes! Psychiatrists stated that truly smitten lovers, who are new to all this madness, often idealise their partners by magnifying their virtues and sidelining their flaws. They even exalt their relationship itself. Its common to think they have a relationship that’s closer and more special than anyone else’s. Psychologists think this rosy view is really needed to makes us want to stay together and finally want commitment.
Role of genes?
When it comes to choosing ‘the one’, we seem to be have to just rely on our subconscious. Researchers studying the science of attraction have tried to explain how humans pick their mates. When we look at a potential mate, we are assessing whether we would like our children to have their traits. There are two ways of doing this that are currently being studied, pheromones and appearance.
In the end, depends on our choice to judge and mate with somebody with the best possible genes. In a way, its an added advantage as only the chosen genes will then be passed on to our children, somewhat ensuring that we have good kids, who will in turn pass down the familial genes to our future generations.
Albeit there are many benefits of being single, there is no denying that truly falling in love is an intense emotion, and one that most of us find ecstatic. So, the next time someone you know starts to comment on the outdoors being more fragrant and refreshing than usual, or you notice that they smile often, especially when staring at a screen while reading messages of someone, they are definitely dating or may be they are possibly ‘falling in love’. Yet, discretion is always advised!
Dr Aafreen Kotadiya
MGM University
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Dr. Aafreen Kotadiya

Aafreen is a young and energetic MD specialized in Immuno-hematology and Transfusion Medicine. Besides being from amongst the top performers since her med school days, she remains a humble and charitable human.

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