That ‘fuzzy feeling’ explained
Unfortunately, the Bible explains how love manifests itself, like with the above line from the book of Corinthians, but it fails to explain how love comes about. In the Christian context, the Bible is the basis for all beings and the foundation of many beliefs.
This leaves many of us at a crossroads with questions regarding love that only science can answer. Instinctive in nature, the topic of love proves itself to be far more complex than imaginable. For decades scientists have been studying what love is, what it does to us and how it can be defined. For now, it has been boiled down to just a few chemicals in our brain that, for a lack of better words, control us.
Feeling weak in the knees, butterflies in the stomach, sweaty palms and nervous jitters. How is it possible that just the very thought of someone can have such control over our bodies? According to Helen Fisher, a well-known researcher and anthropologist at Rutgers University, it is the combination of both physical and psychological reactions taking place within you.
In more scientific terms, you see your partner (or person of interest) and you experience a rush of sensory neurons travelling to your thalamus — the lower part of your brain that processes sensations — where neurotransmitters signal arousal and pleasure. This sends signals that travel to the amygdala (an almond-shaped cell group in the brain which responds to sense perception),
hypothalamus (the brain’s control station of the autonomic nervous system) and pituitary, ensuing the release of hormones which initiate a response in your body.
Yes, all of this happens in your brain just by looking at your person of interest.
Research conducted by Fisher in 1996 was a multipart project to try and decipher which specific chemicals and networks in the brain were involved when a person claimed to be “just madly in love.” In this experiment, participants were told to complete a questionnaire entitled the “Passionate Love Scale.”
Afterwards, Fisher collected data from the brain activity of the participants using an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) when they were shown two photographs: one of their beloved and the other of an emotionally neutral acquaintance. The fMRI would record the blood flow in the brain based on the principle that brain cells that are active require more oxygen.
The findings were extraordinary; those who were “just madly in love” had high concentrations of receptors for dopamine and norepinephrine, while maintaining lower levels of serotonin. This explains why people who are often “in love” experience states of euphoria, feelings of elation, hyperactivity and even mania.
The lower levels of serotonin contribute to, obsession over your love interest. What is most notable about these findings is that the same system in your brain becomes active when you’re experiencing “love” as you do after you take cocaine. Fascinating, yet mildly perturbing. While some assert that love is like a drug, science has a different elucidation.
What makes love similar to cocaine is the “high” a person would get from either. Love junkies are those who are addicted to the “love high” the way a drug junkie would be addicted to that “drug high.” Love junkies are addicts who crave the amphetamine-like rush of the neurotransmitters released by the brain. However, since the body builds up a tolerance to these chemicals (which also explains why some relationships plateau), love junkies go through continuous strings of relationships in order to get their “fix” – a helpful insight as to why some of our friends seem to always be in a dire need of a relationship for absolutely no logical reason.
The debate of whether love is a deeply spiritual emotion or a biological addiction proves to be intertwined; humans have a naturally selected need to pass on their genes while simultaneously integrating emotion into our consciousness. It is up to us to interpret what love is: a rush of dopamine at the sight of someone or the compatibility of personalities. After all, it will be the longest lasting and cheapest high we will ever experience.