LOVE is the brain chemistry of neurotransmitters.
How COOL is this?!
In 1993, Haddaway sang about the question “What is Love?” and it seems that this question still puzzles many of us today. What is love? Scientists have been trying to answer this question for decades and the science behind love is simple, and yet still, complex.
Love is primarily controlled by the brain, not the heart, and can be broken down into three categories: lust, attraction, and attachment. Each of these categories is characterized by its own set of hormones stemming from the brain.
The Science Behind Lust
Lust, which is driven by the desire for sexual gratification, is evolutionary in nature and stems from the need to reproduce. The hypothalamus of the brain plays a significant role in lust by stimulating the production of testosterone and estrogen. Both of these hormones increase libido, but the effects are typically less pronounced with estrogen.
The Science Behind Attraction
Attraction is unique, but closely related to lust. Attraction involves the brain pathways that control reward behavior. Dopamine, which is produced by the hypothalamus, is a well-known player in the brain’s reward pathway and is released when we do things that make us feel good, such as spending time with loved ones and having sex. The release of dopamine and norepinephrine during attraction makes us euphoric and energetic, and can even lead to decreased appetite and insomnia. Brain scans of people in love have shown that the reward centers of the brain fire intensely when they see someone they are attracted to.
The Science Behind Attachment
When it comes to long-term relationships, attachment is the key factor. While attraction and lust play a significant role in romantic relationships, attachment is a common thread that extends to friendships, parent-infant bonding, and other forms of intimacy.
Two hormones, oxytocin and vasopressin, play a major role in attachment. Oxytocin is produced in large quantities during events that are precursors to bonding such as sex, breastfeeding, and childbirth. This hormone helps us to feel close to those we are attached to, like family.
Having separate areas for attachment, lust, and attraction is important for maintaining healthy relationships. Muddling these emotions can lead to negative outcomes. But understanding the role that hormones play in our relationships can help us to better understand the dynamics at play and work towards building strong, healthy connections with others.
Sonja Stilp, M.D. is a mother, athlete and the founder of RISE. Dr. Stilp is board-certified and fellowship trained with advanced training in regenerative medicine and biohacking. She is the medical director at Golden BioHack. If you’d like to hear more about your health and wellness schedule an appointment to meet with Dr. Stilp at RISE in Golden, Colorado. For your convenience and connection, Dr. Stilp also offers virtual consultations.