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  • From philosophers and historians to poets and scientists alike, love has captured our imagination and curiosity for centuries.

  • Many have experienced the rush of falling in love for the first time,

  • or the deep feelings of love for your children, family, and friends.

  • But what is love from a biological perspective?

  • No doubt it's intertwined with the evolutionary survival of our species.

  • After all, you come from an unbroken line of organisms reproducing from the very first microbe that split in two,

  • to your ancestors who have all successfully mated since the dawn of time.

  • Sadly, if you fail to have children, this perfect streak comes to a halt.

  • But while we're driven to reproduce, we're also driven to make sure our offspring survive.

  • Though we often associate love with the heart, the true magic can be seen inside the brain.

  • It may not be entirely surprising to find out that the brain of somebody in love looks awfully similar to one on cocaine.

  • Cocaine acts on the pleasure centers in the brain by lowering the threshold at which they fire.

  • This means that you feel really good a lot easier.

  • We see the same thing in the brains of those in love, but it's not just the cocaine or the love that makes you feel good.

  • It's the fact that anything you experience will now more easily set off pleasure centers and make you feel good.

  • Because of this, you not only fall in love with the person, but begin to build a romanticized view of the world around you.

  • Interestingly, nearby pain and aversion centers begin to fire less, so you become less bothered by things.

  • Simply put, we love being in love.

  • So what chemicals are at work to make all this happen?

  • Both during orgasm or by simply looking at photos of a loved one, there is a surge of dopamine and norepinephrine from the ventral tegmental area.

  • This not only triggers sexual arousal and your racing heart, but gives you the motivation, craving, and desire to be with a person more and more.

  • You see, romantic love is not simply an emotion; it's a drive from the motor of the mind.

  • And this motor brings about intense energy, focused attention, and elation.

  • The pleasure centers are part of the brain's reward system: the mesolimbic dopamine system.

  • If you stimulate this region while learning, learning becomes much easier because it's pleasurable and perceived as a reward.

  • We also see a surge in the neuromodulator, oxytocin from the nucleus accumbens, sometimes called the "commitment neuromodulator" because, in mammals, it helps to reinforce bonding or attachment.

  • When prairie voles are injected with either oxytocin or vasopressin, they will instantly find a mate to pair bond with.

  • Finally, studies have shown that people in love have low levels of serotonin, which is similar to people with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

  • This is likely the cause of our obsession and infatuation during early love.

  • Amazingly, these areas associated with intense romantic love can remain active for decades.

  • And while there are many other physiological and psychological components that add to the mix,

  • the truth is, science still knows very little about exactly why or how love works.

  • And yet somehow, we all seem to know it when we feel it.

  • Got a burning question you want answered?

  • Ask it in the comments, or on Facebook and Twitter.

  • And subscribe for more weekly science videos.

From philosophers and historians to poets and scientists alike, love has captured our imagination and curiosity for centuries.

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