The Science of Love: How Doctors and Psychologists Study Our Feelings

SCIENTISTS DETERMINED THE PRICE OF LOVE – though not in monetary terms. According to a research group from Oxford, the price of love is at least two close friends with whom a person stops communicating in order to pay more attention to a partner. Financial spending is also on the rise: new hobbies make us prone to compulsive buying.      

Love is actively studied by both doctors and psychologists. But if the former is more interested in the hormonal component (how it all works from the inside), then the latter is predominantly emotional. We have collected the most interesting from both areas.

How hormones work

Each person understands love in his own way, and a serious feeling out of sympathy also develops in everyone in different ways. But if you look at what happens to the body at this time, it turns out that no one is unique. Helen Fisher, one of the most famous researchers in the biochemistry of love, distinguishes three stages of feeling: lust, attraction and attachment. Lust arises from the activity of the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone, which are produced in the ovaries and testes. Although these hormones are often referred to as “female” and “male,” respectively, they are found in the body of any gender. At this stage, sexual desire is born – but everything can end with it.       

Attraction is generated by the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which are linked to primary reward and emotion. Chemicals program the brain so that a person cannot think of anything other than the object of his love, and at the same time he feels very happy. In addition, during the attraction stage, serotonin levels decrease, which affects mood and appetite. Finally, attachment is something without which a long-term romantic relationship is impossible, as well as something that, unlike the first two stages, mediates friendship and any other close and trusting relationship. Two hormones are responsible for what happens: oxytocin (responsible for communication at the biochemical level and is secreted by the hypothalamus during orgasm in men and women, as well as during childbirth and breastfeeding in women) and vasopressin (increases attraction to one particular person).    

Why does love hurt

Considering that almost all “love hormones” work with the brain in a positive way, it seems that love is an ideal feeling. But those who remember that falling in love and love are also accompanied by jealousy, compulsive and irrational behavior, unmotivated sadness, hidden and not very aggressive towards people who are close to the object of love, and so on, will not agree with this. 

Hormones are also responsible for the flaws in love. First of all, actively released dopamine , which was studied in great detail in connection with its participation in the formation of addictions, including drugs, alcohol and sugar; for example, when parting, even for just a day, withdrawal symptoms appear, as when giving up the substance that caused the addiction. Secondly, oxytocin, which, as studies with the drugs MDMA and GHB have shown, in large quantities can cause a person to act recklessly. Not so long ago, scientists took another look at the nature of love as an addiction, noting that it probably can also be treated. In the long term – pills that will block hormonal pathways that cause “love addiction”.      

What are pheromones and how do they work  

Despite the fact that perfumes with pheromones seem like homeopathy from the world of perfumery, it is quite possible to create something similar. Another thing is that few people would agree to wear a perfume with such a “magic” scent. By studying pheromones with the help of rodents, which have a special vomeronasal organ in their noses that complements the olfactory system, scientists have found that rats sense pheromones in each other’s urine, and then use them to find the perfect match.  

Since rats and humans are in many ways similar, the search for the miracle organ in the human nose was only a matter of time. In 1986, scientists stated that the underarm secretions of men and women can affect the menstrual cycle. And when, in 1995, Swiss Klaus Wedekind asked a group of women to sniff several T-shirts that different men wore throughout the day, analysis of the results showed that women always chose men with different immune systems from their own. This suggested that the response to pheromones is evolutionary, as the interaction of two different immune systems will contribute to the production of offspring with better survival. By the way, in 2016 the research results were confirmed.       

On the other hand, the most famous steroidal pheromones, androstadienone (found in male sweat and semen) and estratetraenol (found in female urine) do not stand up to research. And although scientists do not deny that pheromones do exist, they suggest starting the search again.    

How else to promote attachment

For example, on the first date, you might order soup rather than dessert, because physical warmth makes us feel warmer towards the person next to us. And also – to look the interlocutor in the eyes, as eye contact increases the feeling of affection, and the longer it is, the better. A smile and good deeds will help in matters of the right impression . And do not forget about light touches , which will at least make a person feel inexplicable sympathy for you – just keep the principles of consent in mind and do not touch people if you are not one hundred percent sure that they do not mind.         

And another curious finding: according to a small study , female friends are better than men at predicting how relationships will develop and whether they have a future. So if you really want predictions, it is better to turn to your girlfriends. 

Why do people kiss

Of course, this is nice – but this answer does not seem entirely scientific. Science has a version that through the contact of the lips of the mother, they used to transfer chewed food to children who could not yet chew, and over time the effect was fixed. Evolutionary theory is supported by the fact that not all people kiss. This is not the case for some cultures, and also, according to one study on American students, people who are “neurotic,” “dependent on mothers,” “have low self-esteem,” who, unlike their peers, “consume less alcohol” and “ are more successful in their studies. ” And the most viable scientists seem to be the theory of kissing as a way to find a suitable partner through the exchange of biological information.        

A few words about kisses for health: they, scientists believe , can contribute to greater satisfaction in relationships, and at the same time improve self-perception, help immunity, stabilize cholesterol levels, burn calories – a trifle, but nice – and reduce the severity of allergy symptoms.

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