Mapping Love: Study Charts How Love Feels in Our Bodies

Mapping Love: Study Charts How Love Feels in Our Bodies

From philosophers and historians.
to poets and scientists alike.
love has captured our
imagination and curiosity for centuries.
Many have experienced the rush of falling in love for the first time.
or the deep feelings
of love for your children.
family.
and friends.
But what is love.
from a biological perspective?
No doubt it’s intertwined with the evolutionary survival of our species.
After all.
you come from an unbroken line of organisms reproducing.
from the very
first microbe that’s split in two to your ancestors who have all successfully made
it since the dawn of time.
Sadly.
if you fail to have children.
this perfect streak comes to a halt.
But while we’re driven to reproduce.
we’re also driven to make sure our
offspring survive.
Though we often associate love with the heart.
the true magic can be seen inside
the brain.
It may not be entirely surprising to find out that the brain of somebody
in love looks awfully similar to one on cocaine.
Cocaine acts on the pleasure centers in the brain by lowering the threshold
at which they fire.
This means that you feel really good a lot easier.
We see the same thing in the brains of those in love.
but it’s not just
the cocaine or the love that makes you feel good.
It’s the fact that anything you experience will now more easily set off
pleasure centers and make you feel good.
Because of this.
you not only fall in love with the person.
but begin to build
a romanticized view of the world around you.
Interestingly.
nearby pain and aversion centers begin to fire less.
so you
become less bothered by things.
Simply put.
we love being in love.
So what chemicals are at work to make all of this happen?
Both during orgasm or by simply looking at photos of a loved one.
there’s a
surge of dopamine and norepinephrine from the ventral
tegmental area.
This not only triggers sexual arousal in your racing heart.
but gives you
the motivation.
craving.
and desire to be with a person more and more.
You see.
romantic love is not simply an emotion.
It’s a drive from the motor of the mind.
And this motor brings about intense energy.
focused attention.
and elation.
The pleasure centers are part of the brain’s reward system.
the mesolimbic
dopamine system.
If you stimulate this region while learning.
learning becomes much easier
because it’s pleasurable and perceived as a reward.
We also see a surge in the neuromodulator oxytocin from the nucleus
accumbens.
sometimes called the commitment neuromodulator because
in mammals it helps to reinforce bonding or attachment.
When prairie voles are injected with either oxytocin or vasopressin.
they’ll instantly find a mate to pair bond with.
Finally.
studies have shown that people in love have low levels of
Serotonin.
which is similar to people with obsessive compulsive disorder.
This is likely the cause of our obsession and infatuation during
early love.
Amazingly.
these areas associated with intense romantic love can
remain active for decades.
And while there are many other physiological and psychological
components that add to the mix.
the truth is.
science still
knows very little about exactly why or how love works.
And yet somehow.
we all seem to know it when we feel it.
Got a burning question you want answered?
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