BrainSex – Why we fall in love, is an interesting documentary about the science and the natural results of why humans fall in love.
For centuries, love has been celebrated – and tried – mostly by poets, artists and singers of ballads. But now, its mysteries have also occurred in the tools of science, including modern brain-scanning machines.
A handful of young people who had just fallen madly in love with volunteers for their brains scanned to see which areas are activated when they saw a photo of your girlfriend. The brain areas that lit up were precisely those that are known to be rich in a powerful good chemical dopamine – the substance the release of brain cells in response to cocaine and nicotine.
Dopamine is the key chemical in the brain’s reward system, a network of cells associated with pleasure – and addiction.
In the same laboratory, older volunteers who said he was still deeply in love after two decades of marriage participated in the experiment itself. Same brain areas lit up, showing that at least some lucky couples, the honeymoon feeling can last.
But in these people, other lighted areas, too – to the rich of oxytocin, the chemical that helps new mothers to embrace the milk and the bond with their babies, is secreted by both sexes during orgasm and, in animals has been associated with monogamy and long-term attachment.
It is too soon – and hopefully, always will be – to say that brain scientists have been translated into all warm and fuzzy feelings we call romantic love in a lot of chemicals and electrical signals in the brain.
But they have a plausible hypothesis, that dopamine plays an important role in the excitement of love, and oxytocin is key to calmer experience of attachment. Of course, the data are preliminary. But the results so far are provocative.