It turns out that falling in love corresponds to the release of key chemicals in the brain, says Dr. Joel Dolin, assistant professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.
Substances are released from the hypothalamus, an amygdala-sized multifunctional area deep in the brain that releases the hormone oxytocin, or what Dolen calls the “love chemical.” And oxytocin is a special hormone that promotes rapprochement. It is released during childbirth, breastfeeding, orgasm, and the binding of hypothalamic cells to the pituitary gland, where it is stored for later use.
“The first thing we need to clarify is what we mean by love,” Dolen said. “We have one word in English. The Greeks had six words for different kinds of love,” from sexual passion to friendship and deep love. . for humanity.
Likewise, not all love looks the same in the brain, and different types of love, such as romantic love, parental affection, or affection between friends, show up with different strengths.
While all of these feelings are related to the same chemical in the brain to some extent, they do not all originate from the same neurons in the brain.
Dolen and her colleagues found that romantic love comes from large neurons in the hypothalamus, while other forms of love, like attachment to one’s own body, come from smaller neurons.
Their study, published in the journal Neuron, revealed another reason why romantic love is so overwhelming to our feelings.
“Size doesn’t matter,” Dolan said. Being in love causes the release of 60,000 to 85,000 oxytocin molecules into large neurons. This is much more than smaller neurons, which release between 7,000 and 10,000 molecules.
After release, romantic love and the connection between oxytocin molecules work differently.
And when oxytocin leaves large neurons (oxytocin’s romantic love cells), it enters the bloodstream and circulating cerebrospinal fluid that fills the brain, Dolen said. Wherever they encounter cells containing oxytocin receptors—adrenals, uterus, breasts, and brain—they bind to and activate those receptors. The response of the receptors is organ dependent, but includes lactation, suppression of the stress response, and feelings of love, including attachment and orgasm.
One limitation of the study is that most of the subjects in the love studies were rodents, not humans.
Brain scans, such as fMRI in humans, can track the amount of blood flowing in specific areas of the brain. But, she says, “they don’t separate love-related neurons from other neurons in the hypothalamus.”
Using genetically engineered mice, in which certain neurons glow when activated, researchers can study how love affects the functioning of the brain. “We can inject fluorescence to fire up the neurons that literally fire love,” she said. Tests have shown that people’s brains are much more activated when they see photos of their partner.
Source: Living Science