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  • I’m Abby Marsh, I’m a professor of psychology

  • at Georgetown University.

  • I describe it as an emotion that is

  • particular response to one person,

  • you love being around that person,

  • you take a lot of pleasure from being

  • in their company, and youre very distressed

  • when youre separated from them.

  • Some of the reasons love feels good is

  • because of a lot of feel good hormones

  • that are involved like dopamine, there’s

  • the sort of reward seeking, it’s energized,

  • excited, and neurotransmitter.

  • And the statum, that is definitely

  • involved in feeling in love.

  • The hormone that is most specific to

  • feeling in love that is most specific to

  • social response is oxytocin, and then a

  • closely related, neuropeptide called vasopressin.

  • Nature really wants love to feel good, right?

  • Nature is imperative is that we reproduce

  • and love is one of the mechanisms nature

  • has put in place to make sure that we do that.

  • This piece is the tender pair bonds and

  • the ones whose babies require a lot of work.

  • We know that the offspring you have two

  • parents who are taking care of them do

  • better on average than offspring who don’t.

  • Um, and it’s again because they are so much

  • work, especially if there’s more one of them.

  • And so we think the nature set us up

  • to form long-term pair bonds to ensure

  • that our offspring would have the best

  • chance at survival in the long term.

  • Why Prairie Voles Love And Their Cousins the Montane Voles Do Not.

  • Prairie Voles are really unique in that,

  • one male and female prairie vole meet

  • it seems to sort of solidify the very

  • long-term bond between them.

  • And as compared to a lot of other mammals, the

  • male doesn’t just disappear after they mate.

  • He sticks around and helps raise the babies

  • and he stays with the mom usually

  • for the rest of their lives.

  • There’s a fairly closely related cousin

  • called the Montane vole that works

  • more or less like a Prairie Vole,

  • and it’s similar in a lot of ways,

  • but it forms no pair bonds,

  • theyre what’s called promiscuous.

  • As soon as theyre made dads, you know

  • peace outthat’s the last the mom

  • will probably see of him. What seems

  • to be the case is that in Prairie Voles,

  • they have really dense oxytocin receptors

  • in regions like Nucleus accumbrens,

  • when they mate they trigger a flood of

  • oxytocin to be released, that triggers a

  • flood of dopamine to be released.

  • And then you have the Acumbens,

  • which causes, for example, the female

  • to find that particular male

  • really rewarding to be around.

  • “I like that dude and I would stick with him,”

  • andthey do.

  • And you can actually mimic this response,

  • really wow if you inject oxytocin into

  • female Prairie Vole, shell just seek

  • to form a bond with any other male

  • Prairie Vole in the vicinity.

  • And then if you block oxytocin receptors, you

  • can total cut off that pair bonding response.

  • And youre basically turning Prairie Voles

  • into Montane Voles, that would be

  • uninteresting in forming pair bonds,

  • if you just block the oxytocin receptors.

  • I think our best guess is that humans

  • are probably built similar.

  • It’s that people who excite romantic

  • feelings in us, probably also trigger

  • increases in oxytocin, which results in this

  • increase in dopamine and we find that person

  • as someone whom we want to stick with.

  • Love is a Drug

  • Uh.. there’s absolutely a lot of research,

  • comparing romantic love to addiction, and

  • the way that people can be addicted to a

  • specific drug, romantic love is almost like

  • being addicted to a specific person.

  • There are lots of similar neurotransmitters

  • involved, dopamine being the most prominent,

  • but there are other ones as well.

  • There are things about being in love that

  • are sort of like being addicted,

  • you are sort obsessed with thinking

  • about that thing all the time.

  • When you are away from it you want more.

  • Your capacity for risk taking to get that

  • thing you crave so much is increased, and

  • the main hormone that comes into play is

  • something called corticotrophinreleasing

  • factor (CRF). And this is a compound that

  • seems to spike in the brain, either when you

  • are separated from the object of love, or if

  • youre separated again from your drug of choice.

  • And this is a hormone that definitely

  • regulates the stress system, and it seems to be

  • involved in the acute stress that you feel right

  • after separating from a loved one and the

  • depression that seems to think in long terms.

  • Were nowhere near knowing enough about love

  • to take the mystery out of it.

  • I think that if we really what people

  • are worried about is that knowing about

  • neurotransmitters like oxytocin

  • will take the mystery out of love.

  • That day is a long, long way into the future,

  • I don’t think we have anything to worry about.

I’m Abby Marsh, I’m a professor of psychology

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The Chemistry of Love - Reactions

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