Falling in love: it's a brain thing

Your eyes meet across the room and in that instant you have made that connection. It’s taken all of 1/5th of a second for “love at first sight”.

We talk about our heart and love, but really it’s our brain, which needs to take the credit.

When we fall in love there are 12 areas of our brain all working together, releasing a cocktail of potent love chemicals: dopamine, oxytocin, adrenaline and vaspopressin.

Can’t stop thinking about the love of your life? Well that’s because your executive suite, where we use our conscious and intellectual thought, is highly activated to engage our thoughts of metaphors, body image and mental representation.

There is a difference too between the deep unconditional love between a parent and child where some common areas but also the middle part of our brain is activated. In passionate love we use more of the reward system part of our brain as well as the executive suite, which is why thinking about the one we love makes us feel so good. Apparently it’s the same euphoria as using cocaine.

And what about when you’re not sure of the other’s affections? If you know someone likes you, you are likely to find them attractive too; more so than if you thought they only liked you a bit. But what makes someone really attractive is when there is that hint of uncertainty, that “je ne sais quoi” of possibility. So playing your cards close to your chest and not letting on how you really feel can really pique someone’s interest. Or maybe of course, he’s just not that into you.

Refs: 1. Stephanie Ortigue, Francesco Bianchi-Demicheli, Nisa Patel, Chris Frum, James W. Lewis. Neuroimaging of Love: fMRI Meta-Analysis Evidence toward New Perspectives in Sexual Medicine. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2010; DOI: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.01999.x 2. E. R. Whitchurch, T. D. Wilson, D. T. Gilbert. "He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not . . . ": Uncertainty Can Increase Romantic Attraction. Psychological Science, 2010; 22 (2): 172 DOI: 10.1177/0956797610393745