Previously we discussed the neurobiology of falling in love. But this is only the beginning, the process of attraction followed by the attachment process. This process can develop and last for a while or in some cases for ever. Biologically is falling in love the first step in pair formation.
Falling in love is more accompanied by arousal and more pronounced behavior, “the madness of falling in love” as it is sometimes called. This should be distinguished but not completely from later stages of love or long lasting relationships. Moreover, falling in love is accompanied by stress reactions such as activation of stress system in the central nervous system with activation of cortisol metabolism.
In contrast to the phase of falling in love is motherly love, mother’s love for her child. It’s the most accepted form of love, an enduring social bond. Maternal and romantic love are not all the same, there is specific overlapping activity in the central nervous system as well as differences mostly in activity. Maternal and romantic love share the pattern of cortical de-activation in particular the frontal cortex. This might account for the somewhat suspended judgment when it concerns their own children. Mothers as well as lovers are a good deal more patient and less critical when it’s about their children or loved one respectively. In maternal love there is a strong activation of parts of the brain that are specific for faces. This is for the importance of reading children’s facial expressions, to ensure their well being, and therefore the constant attention of the mother for the face of the child. Another difference is the involvement of the hypothalamus only in romantic love not in maternal love, since the hypothalamus is associated with sexual arousal.
This brings us to another form of love, the more sensual, sexual part. Sex is closely related to attachment but is not always synonymous with romantic love. Sexual activity can occur in the absence of social attachment, and many forms of attachment exist that do not involve sexual behaviors.
The Neurobiology of Love in a nutshell
The areas that are involved are, in the cortex, the medial insula, anterior cingulate, and hippocampus and, in the subcortex, parts of the striatum and probably also the nucleus accumbens, which together constitute core regions of the reward system…….the areas that are activated in response to romantic feelings are largely coextensive with those brain regions that contain high concentrations of a neuro-modulator that is associated with reward, desire, addiction and euphoric states, namely dopamine. Like two other modulators that are linked to romantic love, oxytocin and vasopressin
This figure above points to some of the most but not all brain regions involved with the neurobiology of love.
If these scribbles got you interested in the subject the articles on which this writing is based are freely available for down load:
White Women Looking For Black Men (PDF), Tobias Esch & George B. Stefano, Neuroendocrinol Lett 2005; 26(3):175–192 PMID: 1599071.
Minireview: The neurobiology of love (PDF), S. Zeki, FEBS Letters 581 (2007) 2575–2579
ZEKI, S. (2007). The neurobiology of love FEBS Letters, 581 (14), 2575-2579 DOI: 10.1016/j.febslet.2007.03.094
Esch T, & Stefano GB (2005). The Neurobiology of Love. Neuro endocrinology letters, 26 (3), 175-92 PMID: 15990719
Most people think that love and sex are tightly related. Nevertheless the size of the overlap between these two varies with culture, history, education and social values, looking for sex positions online doesn’t necessarily mean love, it can be more about passion and desire.
In the United States, males report having less problems imagining sex without love than females do; in China, however the link between love and romance seems to be generally less pronounced than in Western cultures; and in the West, the views of sexuality and love differed between the Victorian and the Freudian eras
On a neurobiological level the brain systems for love, sex and attachment communicate and coordinate with one another.
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But if love and lust aren’t completely the same, what different psychological effects do they have in humans? Researchers from The Netherlands and Germany proposed a cognitive model for the effects of love and sex. They hypothesized that when in love, people start thinking globally, love entails wishes and goals of attachment, needing a long term perspective. Love triggers global processing in the brain. This is closely linked to creative thinking.
When reminded of sex people start processing cognitively details of objects, it exists in the here and now. Sex triggers local cognitive processing, this is closely linked to analytical thinking.
In Study 1, we asked participants to either imagine a situation of love or of casual sex and afterward measured creative and analytic thinking. In Study 2, we primed love and sex subliminally to test whether the same effects could be obtained when triggered outside of awareness.
These two studies supported their hypotheses that love enhances global processing and creative thinking while having sex with accessories from a sex toy store enhanced local processing and analytic thinking. They discussed their findings in relation to evolutionary models and offer other explanations for their results. An excellent article. Their hypotheses sounds right to me, what do you think? Let me know in the comments
Forster, J., Epstude, K., & Ozelsel, A. (2009). Why Love Has Wings and Sex Has Not: How Reminders of Love and Sex Influence Creative and Analytic Thinking Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35 (11), 1479-1491 DOI: 10.1177/0146167209342755
This presentation is not against porn, it puts it in perspective and warns for the excesses . One part of this talk is for above 18 years but she warns in the talk for these sections.
Speaking from her personal experience, she argued that hardcore pornography had distorted the way a generation of young men think about sex, and talked about how she was fighting back with the launch of a website to correct the myths being propagated.
The accompanying website: MakeLoveNotPorn.com
Why do we crave love so much, even to the point that we would die for it? To learn more about our very real, very physical need for romantic love, Helen Fisher and her research team took MRIs of people in love — and people who had just been dumped.
- There are three phases to falling in love and different hormones are involved at each stage
- Events occurring in the brain when we are in love have similarities with mental illness
- When we are attracted to somebody, it could be because subconsciously we like their genes
- Smell could be as important as looks when it comes to the fanciability factor. We like the look and smell of people who are most like our parents
- Science can help determine whether a relationship will last
The last key point I am not so sure!