Being in love is a state of mind that fascinates a lot of people, but most of all psychologists. On the other hand, psychology is fascinating to a lot of people, whether they are in love or not. It is easier to see how things work and tick on the outside then the inside, so when it comes to brain, things get tricky and fascinating.
Neurolove.Me is blog that digs into that subject and features speculated psychology theories, myths, and quotes. The purpose of it is to create discussions among what’s posted. And since Valentine’s day is just around the corner, things are getting sexy and lovely. So let’s dive right in 50 shades of love psychology and we’ll share a thing or two about your brain and love.
Falling In Love Takes Less Than a Second
Yup, you read it good, less then a second, to be more precise, one fifth of second, according to Stephanie Ortigue. In 2010 she has co-authored a review of neuroscience research on love that showed how long it takes euphoria-inducing chemicals to start acting on the brain when you are looking at that special someone. It is a cocktail of neurotransmitters across the brain, including oxytocin, dopamine, vasopressin and adrenaline that involves 12 areas in your brain. Bad news? Small dose of cocaine does the same thing.
Love and Lust and Brain Maps
Speaking of brain maps, first study that looked at the neural difference between love and sexual desire showed remarkable overlaps and distinct differences. The regions activated were those involved in emotion, motivation and higher level thoughts. This finding suggests that sexual desire is more than just a basic emotion, and that the (romantic) love is built on top of this. It is a research that brought together researchers from across the world and gathered the results from 20 studies. So remember that hanky-panky has potential for more.
Heartbreak Is Real
Research has shown that intense or traumatic events, such as break up, divorce, physical distance, or the loss of a loved one can contribute to real physical pain in a person’s heart. This is an actual condition known as the Broken Heart Syndrome. It occurs when deep emotional triggers cause distress in the brain and significantly weaken a person’s heart, causing such symptoms as chest pain or shortness of breath. This tends to affect women more than men, and can easily be misdiagnosed as a heart attack.
Forever and Ever? It Can Be
Life experience can alter our thought patterns. Behaviour and relationships may be challenged when one person’s needs (to) change or both partners grow in different directions. However, Art Aron and colleagues at Stony Brook University have shown that, when thinking about their partners, the brain scans of a minority of people reporting long-term, intense love for their partners looked the same as did the scans of individuals who report being newly in love. Although not the norm, fixed, unchanging love is possible.
Increase Capacity to Love
Research on mindfulness and self-compassion showed that practicing these strategies regularly can develop our brains to be more positive and empathetic in a matter of months. Monks who regularly practice compassion meditation have a different rhythm of brain alpha waves than the average non-meditating person. Those kind of meditations increase activity in brain centres connected with empathy and positive emotions, decrease activation of our fear centres, and make our brains more interconnected.
Love is complicated, but above all, love is a thing that is worth living for. It is not easy and it needs time and nurture to thrive, but if it is done right, it inspires singers and writers to written songs, stories and novels. Sometimes it makes us a bit nutty, but hey it is a stuff of legend.