The Science Of Love

Love DoctorCompatibilities are very common among people and most of the time we look for partners who share the same traits as us, but some research has shown that this should not be the case. There is something known as ‘chemical profiles’ and although, traits may not show any compatibility, opposing traits may actually complement couples in terms of their biology. High tech imaging and genetic analysis have recently presented new answers to what attracts us to another person, what is the reason for the ‘crazy-in-love’ feeling, what happens when a relationship goes from a more flimsy one to a more stable partnership, and what keeps us adoring our loved one. Studying love scientifically is relatively new and discoveries have been varied, all mostly to help couples and to maintain a healthy lifestyle; here are a few of those discoveries:

Biology’s Role In Love

Hormones have something to do with how we are attracted to someone. The estrogen, testosterone, dopamine, and serotonin profile of the person we are attracted to is different from our own and yet complements it. If your body produces high estrogen levels, you are most likely to be attracted to those with high testosterone levels.

What The Brain Does In Love

There are three kinds of phases in love:

  • the sex drive
  • romantic love
  • the attachment phase

The sex drive is basically caused by testosterone levels in men and women and is usually directed towards sexual gratification. These three phases however, may occur separately, for instance, there is sex without love, and love without having to have sex with the person. The most intense of these three phases is romantic love. Magnetic resonance imaging showed intense activity in the brains of people, specifically two regions, who were shown the picture of their beloved. These two brain regions are associated with reward and motivation – the ventral tegmental area and the right of the caudate nucleus.

This means that when we feel crazy in love, this is simply just a motivation and not an emotion. These two areas are where dopamine comes from. This is a chemical important in controlling emotional response and the ability to feel pleasure and pain. An increase in this chemical in people who are madly-in-love causes attention to center on the new partner. It also causes the person to become motivated to get the reward and experience a ‘lover’s high’. Here, both partners are bent on winning each other over and hence can result to obsessive thinking.

This is the same area that activates in cocaine users who are anticipating the use of the drug; the same area that shows activity when we are expecting to receive a large reward.

When one falls in love, he/she has the notion of having the opportunity for life enrichment, and the reward here is usually falling in love.

Sense Of Smell In Love

Body odor can actually cause a person to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a romantic proposal. We all respond to body odor and find preference in it according to our gender and sexual orientation. Normally, a gay man would prefer the odor of his preferred partner; same goes for straight men and women as well as lesbian women. Body odor is influenced by certain factors and one of them is the major histocompatibility complex, which is a cluster of genes that regulate the immune system. The major histocompatibility complex is sort of like our odor fingerprint and humans would normally seek out someone with a different major histocompatibility complex as his/her own.

What The Person Does Or Says Also Affects Attraction

Other than just the factors that are unseen or unconscious, the things that the other person does or doesn’t do also affect attraction. Saying that we like somebody for instance, or just sitting beside that person can influence attraction in many ways.

The rule of thumb is usually that we all want the chance to love and be loved in return.

The Biology of love transitions from being crazy in love to the stable kind of love

When love stretches for a long duration, the activity in a person’s reward centers taper off or drop; when the relationship grows more mature, emotion develops as seen in areas of the brain associate with this particular aspect of love. Romantic love changes as time passes. Despite the change, chemistry still has a role in love’s development. In long-termed relationships, activity still occurs in brain regions associated with romantic love and attachment as shown in FMRI imaging.

In monogamy, two other hormones play a role – oxytocin and vasopressin.

Lactating women and those in labor have a healthy dose of oxytocin which is known as the hormone of love, and is appropriately released by both genders during orgasm. This hormone has a role in interpersonal relationships as well as the reduction of fear and anxiety. Vasopressin, on the other hand is released by the pituitary gland.

How Does Biology Make Love Last?

It is always an unspoken rule that for a relationship to last, partners should not get bored with one another. Couples who engage themselves in highly exciting activities that are moderately pleasant become more satisfied with their partnerships than couples who engage in activities that are highly pleasant and moderately exciting.

In terms of biology and reproduction, partners who have dissimilar major histocompatibility complex genes tend to be more fertile. In addition, children who inherit major histocompatibility complex genes that are different from each other, like the difference in both parents, tend to have a stronger immune system and have more chances of leading a healthy lifestyle. Sexual response, as well as the tendency for attraction to the partner also increases among women who have different major histocompatibility complex genes as their partners.

What Part Of Love Is Attributed To Chemistry?

Who we are is determined by our personality which is composed of our character and temperament. The former is developed by everything we experienced growing up, and the latter is influenced by human biology. We cannot exactly point out the degree of influence of chemistry on relationships because chemistry is not quantifiable. For some of us, chemistry can play a huge role this time, and none at another, when we tend to consider our upbringing.

There is still so much to discover about the biology of love and this simply means that in the years to come, relationship scientists will be quite busy figuring out what ticks in this particular aspect of human existence.

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2 Responses

  1. In your section about making love last, it mentions ‘doing something exciting’ to make love last. Yes, it’s important to make life a little exciting by something as simple as going somewhere new, or having a great social life so that there’s always some excitement and adventure, to keep the sparks alive. And it’s great to treat the other person as if you’ve just started going out together, with the same courtesy, excitement and even flirting, goes a long way to keep the chemistry going!

  2. Rachael Spires says:

    I loved your article, it was very much on the scientific side. I love the part where you mention ‘smell’ this is something i have only just realised in the past year myself. Look forward to hearing more about it.

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