Love on the Brain

Chloe Slome, Writer

Does he love me? How do I know this is true love? Will he love me forever? The infinite questions about love engross adults and teenagers alike.

As love continues to be one of the most studied topics in psychology today, it is also the least understood.

When the word “love” is typed into the google search engine, voila! Over 15 billion results appear in the matter of seconds!

Love is all around us, but the types are not all the same.

As the self-help aisle of books at Barnes and Noble is filled with books on the premises of love, love can simply be broken down into two categories: limerence and lasting love.

Limerence is the state of being infatuated or obsessed with another person. Although limerence lasts longer than romantic love, limerence relationships are smothering, and not as long lasting in comparison to partners in a committed relationship.

Love is a roller-coaster of emotions. But there are three steps to reaching the end of this crazy ride and falling in love, according to a study conducted by Rutgers University.

The first step is lust, which is instigated by the stress hormones estrogen and testosterone, exciting the feelings of lust in the brain.

The second step is attraction, which is excitement as the person starts to feel love.

Lastly, the third step is attachment and allows the couple to fall in love wholeheartedly.

During the different stages of falling in love, our brain produces a variety of emotional and physical responses in our body.

As chemicals associated with the reward center of our brain are released, we begin to have feelings of passion and anxiety, racing heats, sweaty palms, and flushed cheeks.

These emotional and physical responses are the effects of the releasing of the stress hormone.

When we look at someone we romantically love, our brains became active in regions with dopamine.

Dopamine is dubbed the feel-good neurotransmitter as dopamine is associated with feelings of euphoria, bliss, and motivation.

By also stimulating the reward circuit, dopamine makes love a pleasurable experience similar to the euphoria associated with the use of cocaine or alcohol.

Two other brain regions, the caudate nucleus and ventral tegmental area, are also associated with the feelings of love.

The caudate nucleus is a region of the brain associated with reward detection and the ventral tegmental area is associated with pleasure, making both these areas active during feelings of love.

Cortisol, a stress hormone, is also increased during the initial phases of love to help our bodies “cope with the crisis at hand”.

As the cortisol levels are high, the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin become depleted. Low levels of serotonin produce the obsessive-compulsive behaviors associated with infatuation.

Although various psychologists have studied the psychology of love, they have only skimmed the surface.  As love continues to be a topic with never-ending questions, humans still have so much more to learn.