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The Science of Love

Updated: May 27, 2021

Ever wondered why you always fall for the “hard to get” type? It’s all about chemicals, as unsexy as that is.

Oxytocin and dopamine are two of the main chemicals involved in the feeling of love.

Dopamine is a “feel good” hormone and is the underlying cause of addiction. As part of the reward pathway dopamine is produced in neurons located within the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and released in the nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex. Dopamine is a hormone involved in interest and excitement in the other person. Once dopamine has stopped being produced prolactin another hormone is released immediately, causing the opposite effects; depression, irritability and depletion. A surge of dopamine is released during orgasm; once orgasm has been achieved prolactin kicks in making most people tired causing them to fall asleep. Initial relationships that don’t involve sex can keep the levels of dopamine constantly high out of curiosity and maintaining tension, keeping the spark alive. This applies to the “hard to get” type also, as the rollercoaster ride from the surges of dopamine lead to a form of addiction towards that individual, leaving you craving the next sideways glance, the brush of the arm or basically the next dopamine surge.

Oxytocin is a chemical produced by the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus and released by the posterior pituitary. Oxytocin increases your trust in an individual and reduces the effects of dopamine wearing off. This chemical is associated with long term relationships rather than the initial stage which is dopamine-induced. Oxytocin levels of which are increased greatly during physical touch, especially sex. This speeds up attachment to sexual partners compared to overs as it inhibits the amygdala amongst other things. The amygdala is an area of the brain associated with negative emotions such as fear and anxiety. Physical and romantic affection can increase the levels of oxytocin which acts on the amygdala to decrease the activation, therefore preventing anxiety. Some couples struggle with prolonged time apart as the physical affection is no longer leading to increased levels of oxytocin therefore activation of the amygdala occurs, producing anxiety. Avoidance behaviour, that of avoiding people that you are less familiar with has been linked to the activation of the amygdala. Therefore, the release of oxytocin is more likely to make you friendlier and more approachable to a person you find attractive.

Hope your valentine’s day is dopamine fuelled.


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