Neuroscientists around the world have tried long and hard to demystify the mysteries of love, feelings and closeness to a person and what brings about changes in those feelings when such relations go through phases eventually getting altered into some other form; such as a relationship, a marriage, a break-up, infidelity, polygamy, divorce and eventually death.
The human brain and its ‘mysteries’!
The human brain is very weird and puzzling. How it works its magic is beyond our understanding; we have only been able to analyze its working but not specifically come to any robust conclusions yet. It gave us homo-sapiens the notion of love; even without giving us time to realize what the concept of ‘love’ actually is!
What do scientists say?
Scientists don’t believe in the concept of love; for them, it’s just hormones, stimuli, and the nervous system. For us hapless souls, however, love is the ‘mushy stuff’ that makes our speech slurry and garbled and puts our stomach in a knot when we are in close proximity to our loved ones; especially if it is a ‘girlfriend –boyfriend’ type of love.
Researchers have said that our brain is larger than it should be; it is simply not in proportion to our body structure. It somehow enlarged in size over the course of time; perhaps it’s the result of brain development. It weighs only 2% of the body, yet it alone uses 25 % of the entire energyneeded by our body run for a whole day.
As the famous Hollywood movie, Lucy suggests, humans use 20% of their brain capacity due to which we are more intelligent and more advanced than other species in the animal kingdom. We have been able to tap those parts of our cortex which other species other than apes and dolphins are yet to explore.
Our brain is densely packed with billions of neurons and grey cells which react in different ways to different stimuli. A detailed study by a group of researchers suggests that ‘falling in love’ only takes about a fifth of a second and elicits euphoric feelings similar to times when we snort cocaine; it also activates certain intellectual areas of the brain momentarily like an adrenaline rush situation.
The research suggests that 12 areas of the brain work in tandem to release ‘euphoria-inducing chemicals’ such as dopamine, adrenaline, and oxytocin. The feeling of ‘love’ also affects some cognitive functions like body image and self-evaluation.
So how do we really ‘fall in love’? Which part of the body does it? The heart or the brain?
The research says both do; however, the brain has a larger partake in the entire process. Since both the brain and the heart are interlinked they work in tandem. The heart supplies maximum blood to our brain; with the pulse, it regulates major vasodilation mechanisms in the body.
Blood levels of nerve growth factor, or NGF, also showed a significant increase in couples just falling in love. That is where ‘love at first sight’ takes places. Blame the NGF for the goose-bumps and butterflies in the stomach when you see your crush!
What happens when the heart or the brain is hurt?
However falling in love sometimes comes with a dark future- the feeling of separation. The research shows that when love doesn’t work out, it causes significant damage to the brain and the heart causing emotional stress and depression. The x-rays of ‘heart-broken’ people have shown torn heart muscles. The body also reacts differently when going through depression. It goes into a state of shock.
The concept of ‘true love’ and its truth
The study also shows that different parts of the brain fall for love differently. In today’s world ‘true love’ is rarely found; love has a plethora of meaning for people now.
For example, unconditional love like between a doting mother and her child is ignited by the common and different brain areas and the middle of the brain.
The interlink between love and sex
Passionate love gets sparked by the ‘reward part’ of the cortex like cognitive brain areas that have cognitive functions, such as body image.
Other feelings such as an urge to have sex just puts the brain into a frenzy. Humans are amorous individuals, our brain reacts differently to normal behavior in the presence of pleasurable activities and excitement.
The brain areas associated with the production of dopamine and norepinephrine work double time when the brain is in the mood for sex, be it faithful or infidelity-driven. These two chemicals are what make and break relationships. Why do people do drugs? Because dopamine is released upon their consumption! Similarly, when stimulated, our body requests our brain for the extra release of pheromones which in turn lead to sex.
Love and depression
The thinking of an individual matters a lot if love is made to be successful. Negative thinking also releases dopamine but it tends to harm the body. Happy people tend to be more faithful and make better life partners.
The feeling of an ‘influence’ over the partner is what keeps the balance. The brain activity in love-stricken couples looks the same in regions associated with feelings like motivation, craving, and reward.
What happens during a breakup?
During nasty breakups or the loss of a deeply loved one, the body goes into a state of denial, shock, and untenable trauma. The person behaves in a peculiar lackadaisical manner and it isn’t a good thing. This happens because oxytocin helps build emotional responses such as trust-building and empathy. Oxytocin also inhibits feelings of suspicion, envy, and jealousy such as when a person is caught cheating in love, involving in extramarital sex or polygamy.
In short, oxytocin triggers and amplifies your feelings; the good ones and the bad ones. The science is simple, our body is a receptor and the person we fall for is the stimulus. Our receptacle, the brain tries to build relations with the other person to build a bond.
It is up to us how we preserve and cherish that bond, loving someone deeply keeps us happy, however losing them to death or finding them cheating simply kills us from within. What society should do is shed its inhibitions and learn to be faithful, meaningless relationships that won’t go too far simply hurt us and tend to become a bad memory. Being with a person that makes you smile no matter what is the key to long-lasting happiness.
So basically, longing for someone’s affection is, in turn, a big ‘chemical locha’ which affects the brain and the heart in tandem and we call it love!