THE CHEMISTRY OF LOVE AND VALENTINE’S DAY

February 13th, 2012

What makes us attracted to one type of look and not another? Is there really such a thing as “Love at First Sight”?

Do chemicals within our bodies play a role in determining when, who and why we fall in love or get a crush that makes our heart flutter and our palms sweat?

Non-verbal signals very much play a role in both initial and continuing physical attraction.

For example, it is known that testosterone (T) levels can determine the level of lust in women as well as men. Though lust can be an overwhelming and exciting sensation, there may also be a downside. Recent research has shown that higher T levels in men causes them on average to have more sexual partners and increases their chance of remarriage. No such effect was shown in women.

Lots of neurotransmitters like norepinephrine, dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and vasopressin can cause both psychological and physical responses related to desire, love and commitment to a relationship.

For example oxytocin, a pregnancy hormone that induces uterine contraction and milk flow, is also known to bond mothers to babies, couples and increase intimacy. A study of new couples showed that after 6 months the couples with higher levels of oxytocin tended to remain together.

While oxytocin may keep a couple together, it may be dopamine that initially brings you together. A study at Stony Brook University looked at the brains of couples who had just recently fallen madly in love. The areas of the brain that were most stimulated were those areas known to be high in dopamine, a pleasure and addiction related neurotransmitter. A New York Times article titled “Dear, I love you with all my brain” may be very accurate, but I don’t think Valentine’s Day cards with brains all over them, instead of hearts, will be a big hit.

Norepinephrine, a stimulant neurotransmitter, may be why we get nervous and our palms sweat when in the initial stages of lust and attraction.

For some answers to fun and interesting questions like, “Is there really such a thing as love at first sight” or “What time of the month is your husband or boyfriend most attracted to you?” or “Is love similar to addiction?” check out this WebMD slide show. I think you will enjoy it.

WebMD:  Sex-Relationships & the Science of Love 

 

Curt Hendrix M.S. C.C.N. C.N.S.