What Science Tells Us about Being in Love…
And how cupid’s arrow hits men and women differently
Written by Darla Palmer-Ellingson in Residential
You’ve met someone you think is the greatest. You bounce between exhilaration, euphoria, anxiety and panic, and sway between increased energy and sleeplessness. She recounts every instant of your last time together. His heart skips a beat when he sees her approach. You can’t get enough of each other—like an addiction. Well, according to science, falling in love is like an addiction. A brain in love lights up the same area on an MRI as someone that has just taken a hit of cocaine, researchers determined in a study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology.
Psychology Today explains that just thinking about your new love stimulates the ventral tegmental area of the brain, releasing a flood of feel-good dopamine into brain pleasure centers. The resulting “high” is highly addictive. Dopamine is also responsible for thinking that the object of affection is unique and special, focusing on all of a partner’s good traits (even if they have six toes and your friends don’t like him or her), often ignoring the bad.
Your heart goes pitter patter
Love can make one’s heart rate increase and blood pressure pump, due to the release of the stress hormone norepinephrine, which is similar to adrenaline. The combination of dopamine and norepinephrine together is what causes symptoms such as elation, extreme energy and focused attention or sleeplessness, according to Helen Fisher, anthropologist and well-known love researcher from Rutgers University.
Those crazy things you do
A love infected brain experiences a drop in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that otherwise provides a sense of being in control and prevents anxiety. Researchers at University College in London found that when serotonin levels drop, it can bring on obsessive behavior. Studies found that people who had newly fallen in love thought about their partner as much as 85 percent of their waking hours. At the same time, the brain’s prefrontal cortex (our reasoning and control center) drops into low gear, and the amygdala, or threat response system, decreases. Combined, the love brain will obsess, take more risks or act recklessly, hence the term “crazy in love.”
Men in love
The visual cortex of men in love light up more than women. Many studies have been conducted about the differences between men and women, confirming that men are more visually stimulated, including a recent article posted on Medscape. Ladies, this could also include positive reactions to your appearance on date nights—a smile and eye contact are an intoxicating combination.
Women in love
The brains of women in love are more complex. Women are stimulated by an emotional connection, which can be enhanced by sound, smell and touch, lighting up the hippocampus. This area of the brain, which is larger in women than men, is associated to memories. Men, setting the scene with music and candles and offering a gentle, scented massage will have her neurons firing! She will also remember special occasions and gestures.
While men and women fall in love differently, the thrill, obsession and connection is part of what bonds us together, transitioning to the next stage of endearment: a lasting relationship.