On a molecular level, three chemicals determine love’s origin
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, the time has come when we all sit back and think about those we love, have loved and maybe would like to love someday. The path we follow to fall in love is pretty universal. First comes attraction. Then you feel the confusion as the person begins to slowly invade your every thought. Last comes the realization that you have completely fallen for this person and are ready to admit you are in love. To some, love may seem to only develop from an emotional and psychological source, but to Dina Kudasheva there is something more. The article “Chemistry of Love” by Dina Kudasheva explores the chemical basis of attraction and love.
In the brain there exists a wide array of neurochemicals at work every moment of every day. These chemicals regulate everyday neural activity from pleasure to pain.
“Attraction, love and relationships are fueled by actual chemicals,” Kudasheva said.
More specifically, three neurochemicals play a major role in the development of love for another person: norepinephrine, dopamine and phenylethylamine.
Norepinephrine, or noradrenaline, stimulates the production of adrenaline inside the body. This leads to that nervous feeling you may get on your first date, or even your first time meeting someone you find attractive. Your heart races; your palms sweat; you feel butterflies in your stomach. You cannot contain the feelings of joy you have when you look at this person. All that feeling is the result of the work of norepinephrine.
The brain releases dopamine when you experience a good feeling. For example, after eating exceptional food or talking to a special someone, the body may experience a rush of excitement. Acting as both a precursor to norepinephrine and as its own neurotransmitter, dopamine serves a wide variety of functions in the body. Most notable is its role in the pleasure center of the limbic system, which conditions the body’s emotional responses.
When a stimulus acts on the body and the brain releases dopamine, the neurotransmitter tells the body continue to seek out the stimulus. The feeling of always wanting to be near or talk to a significant other is partially a result of the release of dopamine conditioning the body to pursue further interactions.
Phenylethylamine (PEA) acts as the releasing agent for dopamine and norepinephrine.
“The first attraction causes us to produce more PEA, which results in those dizzying feelings associated with romantic love,” Kudasheva said.
The release of PEA increases dopamine, which in turn stimulates the pleasure system and causes a feeling of joy and happiness. PEA is more famous for its presence in chocolate than as a source for romantic feelings. So, for Valentine’s Day, buy lots of chocolate if you want to stir some of those romantic feelings in your significant other.
It is through the interaction of these three neurochemicals that the true “chemistry” of love emerges.