At some point in our lives, we’ve all had this giddy feeling of excitement whenever he or she walks into the room. You know, how she lights up the room when she walks in or he causes butterflies in your stomach whenever he looks at you. I’m certain that special person came to mind right now and you couldn’t stop yourself from blushing. Wait a minute, before you go into wonderland fantasizing, read this post to the end to understand what that love is doing to your brain. Shall we?
Love is a matter of the heart but the main organ affected by love is actually the brain. Studies have shown that merely looking at the face of someone we are deeply, passionately and hopelessly in love with, activates limited number of areas in the brain. The brain changes triggered by love certainly affect your mood and behavior when these feelings are new, but some effects linger long past the first blush of love, continuing to strengthen your commitment over time.
Don’t get so worked up or disappointed in your attitude the next time you fall in love because it is simply the brain at work making you obsessed and addicted.
Love has been proven to give similar effects as the drug, cocaine. This is because it releases the same hormone, dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is produced in the substantia nigra, ventral tegmental area, and hypothalamus of the brain. It is the primary neurochemical responsible for the experiences of attraction, love and desire. It has also been known as the reward system in the brain as it processes emotion, direct focus, and seek rewards.
Dopamine is usually released during the early stages of love. It makes new love feel extremely rewarding, exciting, and worth pursuing over other things. Dopamine is responsible for those bodily changes you have when you are around the person you have romantic feelings for. You know, when your heart skips a beat and shortness of breath occurs (I get this a lot) or your pulse quicken and you get goosebumps or when your cheeks warm up and probably gets red (yup, that’s me too, it gets hot).
Cortisol and norepinephrine may also be increased, causing us to experience a feeling of urgency and to think frequently about the person we have romantic feelings for.
Be sure to note however that these feelings caused by dopamine rush eventually wears out and gives room for other neurochemicals that foster attachment and connection.
2. Feeling of Protection and Safety
You know that feeling of security you get whenever you are with him, or how you feel relaxed and probably yawn when you are with her. Yes, that’s oxytocin at work. We’ve probably learnt from school that oxytocin plays a vital role in the production of milk after childbirth. What they didn’t tell us however, is that oxytocin is a love hormone.
Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and gets secreted by the pituitary gland; all occurring in the brain. It is responsible for the feeling of security and attachment you get concerning this person. It strengthens your bond, in part because it may decrease your interest in other potential partners. When your love makes it past the early stage rush, the oxytocin levels increase. It is also triggered by a hug, kiss or sex. Be sure to remember that when next you do any of those.
3. Constant Thoughts
The reason you can’t stop daydreaming about her is not far-fetched. Science has revealed that another part of the brain called the Anterior Cingulate Cortex has a role to play. It is a section of the cerebral cortex found in the medial portion of the cerebral hemispheres. ACC has been associated with emotion, cognition and other physiological functions. When a relationship gets more intense, having moved past the early stage rush, the activity in this region increases and he seems to be the only one on your mind.
4. Feelings of Jealousy
You thought I wasn’t going to mention it? Think again. The feelings of jealousy has been linked to the love hormone, oxytocin and vasopressin.
You never cared about the number of guys she speaks with, but it suddenly bothers you now or the fact that he hugs so many girls has become an issue of concern to you. Relax, find comfort in the fact that it is simply love happening to your brain and take a glass of water to calm your nerves—that’s scientifically proven as well (You’re doubting me, check it out here).
5. Willingness to Sacrifice
This happens during the earlier and later stages of love. It shouldn’t surprise you to know that the brain’s frontal cortex, the region of the brain essential for judgement shuts down when people fall in love; activity decreases in this area and the regions that secretes oxytocin, dopamine, vasopressin and all the other love chemicals gets activated.
It is at times like this that you’re willing to sacrifice anything for the one you love. This makes true the statement that love is blind. It differs for some persons though as there are situations where love is allowed to grow out of a friendship with the brain’s frontal cortex actively functioning, although activity in the brain regions that stimulate love will still have to be increased for sacrifice to occur. This occurs in the matured stages of love.
Can you relate to any of this or are there other things love does to the brain that’s not mentioned here. Drop them in the comment section right below. I’d love to read them.