In the wake of Valentine’s Day, I want to talk about love! So, what is love and why in the world is love discussed everywhere?! I would say 90% of the songs that I hear are about love-at-first-sight, love-aches, break-ups, betrayal by the loved ones, unrequited loves, etc… And talking about movies, there are always some components of love relationships in storyline and that is what really makes the story interesting. So, what is love and why does it happen? As a student pursuing science, it is sometimes difficult to read articles that state that love is simply a mixture of chemicals and hormones permeating through our bodies when we meet someone who strongly attracts us. Few years ago, the magazine, The Economist, had an article about science of love titled, Love is All About Chemistry. There are some major hormones and neurotransmitters discussed in this article. Although the exact mechanism of love within human brain is not well understood, research on voles can give us some hints about the function of hormones in love relationships. Voles are small mouse-like rodent that practice monogamy. When prairie voles have sex, there is a rise in dopamine level which is a chemical that functions as a reward system in the brain. For example, after mating in voles, there is a 50% increase in the level of dopamine which reinforces the fact that sex is enjoyable. Next comes vasopressin and oxytocin which are hormones that help the brain identify the salient features of one’s partner. Salient features can involve odor of one’s sex partner that creates an olfactory memory on the voles. Thus, these two hormones are important in prairie voles’s monogamous lives. Indeed, for human beings to fall in love based on olfactory memory is unlikely. However, human beings also have vasopressin and oxytocin release during sex. Also, when in love, brain scanner reveals activation in parts of the brain that reacts when it experiences an effect of drugs like cocaine. We simply become addicted to love. Going along the same vein, people in love behave in similar manners to people with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). So, the major question to be asked is this: can you manipulate love using these hormones and chemicals, a.k.a., is there such thing as love potions? Luckily this article ended with the note that human brain is way too complex to be easily manipulated by injections of drugs to promote love. Indeed, I also think that despite these trends of hormones and chemical release during the process of falling and being in love, there is yet something special about love despite time, hormones, and chemicals. And perhaps that is the reason why everyone always sings, writes, and search for love that is so mysterious yet magical.
If you want to read more about the article mentioned in this post, please visit:http://www.oxytocin.org/oxytoc/love-science.html