The Neuroscience of Love

neuroscience of love

There’s growing research on the neuroscience of love. But what exactly is this love that is being studied? How this word has been understood by neuroscientists?

PS: The content from this blog post aren’t all my original ideas. Some part is taken from different websites.

Despite everything we know about human behavior and relationships, love remains a mystery to us. It causes us the greatest joy and the greatest pain, engulfs us with inexplicable emotions, and makes us act in completely irrational ways. As if that weren’t enough, we often feel we’ve got a little say in who becomes the object of our affection.

Neuroscientists are coming to a better understanding of the ways romantic and other types of love occur in the brain, which could help us boost our capacity for love and improve our relationships.

They focus on fMRI studies of love. In these experiments, participants are typically shown face images of various people, one of whom they love while the others are unloved controls — friends, celebrities, or random people. The variance in the fMRI response to the loved vs. unloved faces is taken to imitate the neural links of love.

This model makes three basic assumptions about love:

  1. Generation: Love is interpreted as something capable of being generated, provoked, or produced. The idea of showing pictures to subjects is to generate love in them, right there and then. This assumption extracts love comparable to fear, sensory perception, localized physical pain, or sexual desire. They’re all reactions to stimuli.
  2. Temporality: Love can be represented or modeled as a separate, temporally constrained event. Or, to be more accurate, it can be represented or modeled as a series of separate, temporally constrained events.
  3. Individualism: Studies assume that love is an individual-level property. It’s a property or attribute of a person, as opposed to a larger group or entity.

Philosophers and thinkers have long discussed the nature of love, and the production-of-love model signifies only one of many ways of thinking about the issue.

In this final blog post, I’ve decided to explore a fascinating and unpleasant correlate of the topics we’ve already discussed — romantic love.

Love, infatuation, romantic couple affection is one of the great mysteries of human life, and with the help technology, we can now see what it looks like in our brains. It’s the ultimate emotion, the ultimate feeling, what many people would answer when asked what is the meaning of life; it’s inspired novels, poems, songs.

The experience of romantic love is headed by three major neurotransmitters — dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin.

Dopamine is the primary pleasure neurotransmitter of the brain’s reward areas, which plays an important role in both sexual arousal and romantic feelings. While all mammals find sex rewarding, humans also register the individual mate as rewarding. 

Oxytocin and vasopressin are more intimately related to attachment and bonding. They’re key hormones for both romantic and maternal attachment, being released during orgasm, childbirth, and breastfeeding.

They’re concentrations that increase during the initial phase of pair bonding. The importance of oxytocin and vasopressin in pair bonding has been most significantly studied in their roles on the reproductive habits of voles

However, equally interesting is what isn’t activated. When looking at our beloved, key areas of our brains decrease activation — the amygdala, frontal cortex, parietal cortex, and middle temporal cortex.

The amygdala is concretely implicated in fear and anger, meaning that decreased activation suggests a lessening of fear. This might explain why we feel so safe and happy in our beloved’s arms.

Inversely, this might be a direct device that enables pair-bonding itself, given the weakness and trust that forming a loving relationship needs. A decrease in amygdala activity is also present during orgasm.

Love is blind!

The frontal cortex is the center of executive functioning, judgment, and logic, all of which get thrown overboard in love. This is due to decreased activation in this brain area, which translates to a suspension in judgment or relaxation of judgemental criteria by which we judge other people.

We seek people to love us despite our shortcomings; it turns out they don’t see them! Or at least they judge them less harshly because their frontal cortex is high on infatuation. The neuroscience proves it, love is illogical.

Flooding of dopamine makes you feel exalted and elevated, an increase in oxytocin and vasopressin induces bonding behavior while a decrease in amygdala activity makes you feel even better and encourages trust in your partner.

Helpfully, a decrease in the frontal cortex makes you overlook your partner’s flaws and be willing to do anything for your relationship. Finally, deactivation in the mentalizing areas of the brain provides you with a sense of unity in love, which we so crave.

As we can see, romantic love has relation with sexual attraction and arousal. Romantic love has the further advantage that the rewarding stimulus is extended to the beloved as a person and probably includes sexual activity. Indeed, ideally, they complement one another — there’s a reason why people refer to sex as making love.

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