The heart doesn’t fall in love the brain does

Heart is racing like a tom-tom.  Palms are sweaty.  Your cheeks are rosy and radiant.  Brain feels like swiss cheese – open your mouth to say something clever and witty and stimulating but what comes out is an awkward fumble………..

 Cupid’s arrow

You’ve been hit by cupid’s  “deadly” arrow.  But the arrow didn’t puncture your heart it’s lodged in your head.

Brain falling in love

Cupid’s arrow initiates the biochemical storm of “falling in love” by targeting 12 distinct areas of the brain in the matter of seconds according to researchers at Syracuse University.  And yes, the whole think can happen in an instant (about 1/5 th of a second). 

The “love” equation

Scientists divide the complex cascade into three distinct phases starting with

  • lust
  • attraction and
  • attachment
  • and for the unlikely break up

Lust is all about hormones which produce the experience of desire.  Lust gets your attention but falling in love is about “attraction”.

The “love” centre

The attraction phase is driven by the “love” centre.  MRI scans indicate that it is  the exact same area of the brain responsible for drug addiction and obsessive compulsive disorders (explains the often times nutty behaviour).  During the attraction phase your are “fixated” which is really the same as being  “addicted” to your partner.

The initial chemical rush is driven by dopamine and adrenaline.  Dopamine creates the euphoria while adrenaline is responsible for the pitter patter of the heart and overall restlessness (like an overdose of coffee).

Love is blind

A “chemical” high can have negative effects.  The phrase “love is blind” is not a misnomer – the chemical overload makes it difficult to critically evaluate the partner so we miss the minor (or sometimes major) faults as cognitive functions are temporarily shut down.

Titillating chemicals replaced by feeling of well being

But as most people discover, this doesn’t last indefinitely because the body develops a tolerance to the pleasure stimulants.  The “titillating chemicals” are replaced by endorphins and the hormones vasopressin and oxytocin which feel like you’re bathing in liquid love – you have an overall sense of well-being and security.   Emotions that are likely to be conducive to creating a lasting relationship.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

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