Have you ever been in love? Of course, you have. But is love all about the warm and mushy emotions? Or is your brain chemistry behind your feelings? You know what the movies, novels, poets, philosophers have to say about love. Now let us take a look at the science of love.
What is love?
All of us have our own definition of love. We know how it feels. We know the pain and pleasure that comes with it. But what does science have to say about love?
According to neuroscientist Dr. Gabija Toleikyte, love is something that is born in the recess of our subconscious. She said “Our subconscious mind has about ten times more information than our rational brain. So when we actually fall in love with a person it might seem like quite a momentary experience, however, the brain is working really hard to compute and to produce that feeling.”
Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, Ph.D., said romantic love is simply “a basic drive that evolved millions of years ago in order to enable us and focus our attention on just one partner and start the mating process.”
The fact is, love is still one of the most misinterpreted emotions humans experience. Love is a complicated process that generates in the subconscious mind. However, it is not something that we can manage or control at will.
It is an emotional experience that impacts our lives to a great extent. It affects our mindset, thoughts, moods, and behavior. It can even interfere with our daily lives and make daily mundane tasks seem different. However, according to the science of love, the goal is to find the best mate we can possibly find, ensure successful reproduction, and take care of our offspring. But is that all?
Understanding the science of love
Despite what poets and philosophers might say, love actually happens due to certain changes in our brain’s biochemistry. According to research by Dr. Helen Fisher of Rutgers University, romantic love comprises 3 distinct categories driven by their own set of brain chemicals and hormones.
The 3 basic parts of love include –
1. The science of lust
Lust, also known as libido or sex drive, is primarily defined by our craving for sexual gratification and is driven by the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen, both in women and men. Evolution has programmed all living beings to breed and reproduce, and lust stems from this basic need.
It drives us to reproduce more often, ensure that our genes are passed on and our species survives. According to Dr. Fisher, “The sex drive evolved to motivate individuals to seek sexual union with any appropriate partner.”
The production of both estrogen and testosterone from the ovaries and testes is stimulated by the brain’s hypothalamus. Although these hormones are identified as female and male hormones respectively, both these chemicals have a crucial role to play in both women and men. Thanks to testosterone, your libido increases significantly, whether you are a man or a woman. However, estrogen seems to drive women more, as they might feel more sexually aroused when they ovulate.
Scientist Jena Pincott believes the brain seems to dominate when it comes to the science of love. According to her research, libido is influenced by the amygdala in our brain, which is also “associated with emotions, urges and spur-of-the-moment decisions.”
2. The science of attraction
The science of love states that attraction is another crucial component of love and is different from, yet related to lust. Dr. Fisher believes, “Your biology plays a role,” when it comes to attraction.
Although we may get attracted to someone we lust for and vice versa, both lust and attraction can occur independently. According to Dr. Fisher, attraction is “characterized by increased energy and the focusing of attention on a preferred mating partner. In humans, attraction is also associated with feelings of exhilaration, intrusive thinking about the beloved, and the craving for emotional union.”