Science, Neuropsychology and the Miracle of Love

It is all very scientific, this business of love.  There are brain chemicals and neurotransmitters, time lines, studies and experiments.  What science has found is that love is literally in our DNA – we are designed to fall in love.  Science romantic?  Yes…maybe Thomas Dolby was right all along.  When you look closer at the science, to me at least, it becomes even more of a miracle and even more romantic.

I have long had a theory that you really cannot whip up a batch of love like you can instant potatoes.  But how does my theory stack up to science?   Science has determined that there are three stages and many brain chemicals involved in falling in love.  Let’s face it, Neuropsychology is a many splendored thing! While the first phase is often confused with “love at first sight”, this phase is designed to fade. The next phase, again not meant to last a long time, is the romantic phase where we are all gooey eyed.  The last, and longest lasting phase is where chemicals are released to settle us in and get us comfortable.  The proof is in the chemicals…

Stage one -Lust/Attraction: This is the initial stage where the sparks fly that lasts anywhere from 1-6 weeks. During this time our bodies are flooded with testosterone and estrogen which fuels the high exciting sex drive many experience in the the first stages of a relationship. Jim pfaus, Professor, Department of Psychology, Concordia University, Member, Center for Studies in Behavioral Neurobiology, states that when we find someone we are attracted to “our sympathetic nervous system kicks it up a notch” and produces these hormones in spades. After sex many chemicals are also released. Among the many post-orgasmic chemical changes is an increase in the level of endogenous opioids that propell us into the next phase.

Stage two – Romance: Dopamine, Norepinephrine, and phenylethylamine are the main chemicals responsible for the feeling most people associate with being in love. Helen Fisher, well-known anthropologist and love researcher  at Rutgers University, says Dopamine and Norepinephrine produce elation, intense energy, sleeplessness, craving, loss of appetite and focused attention. Researchers at University College London discovered that lower levels of seritonin are responsible for the intense focus and idealizing view we may see in our romantic partner.  This is what fuels the “crazy in love” feeling that lasts from 2 weeks to two years.  All good things must come to an end…For better or worse, the wild passion of early love is unsustainable – at least with the same person. Pfaus figures this is the lure of serial monogamy. “Some people get a rush out of the beginning and just keep trying to repeat it.”

Third Stage – Bonding: For biological reasons that are not yet understood, emotional chaos eventually gives way to calm, and emotional security trumps sex. This is the neurochemical basis underlying romantic love. Vasopressin and oxytocin are the main chemicals released for the deeper lasting bond during the last phase.  According to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, the hormone oxytocin has been shown to be “associated with the ability to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships and healthy psychological boundaries with other people.” Vasopressin, is another chemical that has been associated with the formation of long-term, monogamous relationships. Oxytocin and vasopressin interfere with the dopamine and norepinephrine pathways, which might explain why passionate love fades as attachment grows.

What about when that euphoric feeling is gone? According to Ted Huston at the University of Texas, the speed at which courtship progresses often determines the ultimate success of the relationship. What they found was that the longer the courtship, the stronger the long-term relationship.

The romantic miracle of love seems to be a mixture of faith, chemicals and time. We have to have faith to stay in and let time and science work it’s magic. Nice to know that my theory of taking your time to date and get to know someone has some scientific backing.  Now, if I can just get a man to believe that love takes time that will be a miracle!!  Too bad there isn’t a scientific formula for that.


14 thoughts on “Science, Neuropsychology and the Miracle of Love

  1. I like to improve myself, and I’m interested in taking a course or two in neuropsychology and/or neuroscience. I’ve read the introductory book by Graham Beaumont, as well as a couple of others, and I’d like to learn more.


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