The Science of Love

Best-selling American author Julia Quinn once said, “Love works in mysterious ways.” Well, it turns out love isn’t quite as mysterious as we once thought.

With countries across the world celebrating Valentine’s Day on February 14th, we figured we’d take a look at the science behind romantic love.

However, the answer to the age old question, “What is love?” really comes down to what aspect of science you’re looking at. Here at ECS, we’re going to delve into the chemical reactions that occur to make a person feel sensations associated with love.

While the heart is the most common image associated with the idea of love, it’s really the brain that’s doing all the work. When we make a connection that falls along the path of romantic love, our brain releases a plethora of chemicals that cause us to experience excitement, euphoria, and bonding.

Chemicals such as adrenaline, norepinephrine, and dopamine are released in the early stages of love. Along with being able to see these chemicals at work on a brain scan, electrochemistry also offers us the option to track them and pick up patterns via sensors.

These chemicals are what cause us to have that blissful, feel-good emotional responses when interacting with our partner. During this time, we also experience lowered serotonin levels, which are common in people with obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Once we move past the young love stage and into a more committed period, the chemical reaction in our brain changes. Now, oxytocin and vasopressin take over. These chemicals promote bonding and monogamy.

But if that process takes too long for you, don’t worry – there’s another way to fall in love, according to researchers. A study originally formulated in 1997 called “The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness,” offers a series of 36 questions that could speed up intimacy or possibly rekindle an old flame. Find them here.

(P.S. If you’re looking for the perfect Valentine’s Day card for your loved one, you’re going to want to check these science gems out.)

[Sources: UC Berkeley & The Economist]

Don’t forget to check out the Digital Library for a closer look at these chemical processes!


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