Love, a simple question of chemistry?

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Passionate, romantic or physical love is the result of a mechanical complex, combining impulse and desire, the colour of prohibitions and inhibitions. The attraction to passion and then to attachment, to desire the sex, the obsession in the missing, our brain triggers, module and activates a system of neural circuits complicated that scientists strive to decipher the functioning. Explanations.

By Bernard Sablonnière, neurobiologist, university professor − hospital practitioner, faculty of medicine, University of Lille originally published on The Conversation

As early as 1937, James Papez, neuranatomiste, describes and formalizes the circuit of the emotions, which involves the regions of the brain involved in the repulsion or the attraction, the desire, or the refusal. The emotions that we perceive, it is the body that speaks. The feelings that one feels, it is the mind that judges. The little music that gives rhythm to the dance of these partners are closely entwined is effectively orchestrated to do to reach the encounter toward its ultimate goal: the reproduction of the species… The brain choreography this evolution, integrating, evaluating, responding to and modifying the information that it receives via the senses to adapt our behaviour accordingly.

To do this, the neurons are the baton of a conductor. Via chemical messengers (neurotransmitters), they activate, slow down or block some lanes of communications nerve to allow the brain to adapt to external stimuli, and change our behaviour accordingly : do know that the other person we like, which was unconcerned by, seduces us… These networks of neurons constitute the brain’s limbic system, also called the ” emotional brain “.

Biology is not romantic, but, fortunately, our brain invents, colour, dress and built the feeling of love!

The stages of love

How to explain that, crossed by a sudden thought, one can find himself overwhelmed by a feeling, a smell, an image, a memory? This phenomenon is based on the delicate balance that exists between excitatory and systems calming, which makes our behaviours are often spontaneous and immediate. At the heart of the desire to enter into a relationship with the other is a messenger essential for the brain: dopamine, a true hormone of desire.

Love takes place in several stages, which vary in time. It all starts with attraction, that subtle alchemy that is the sign of a successful encounter. The desire of seduction and desire that result, often achieved through sex, can lead then to passion, and then move towards a commitment to sustainability.

The stress of the encounter

What happens in the brain during a stroke of a lightning? It all starts with an alert response. It is necessary to enter in the intimacy of the other, an unknown person, the trac installs, we don’t know what can happen… Our body reacts by releasing norepinephrine, a chemical messenger in the stress. Close to the adrenaline, the noradrenaline is, like it, produced by the adrenal glands. Increasing such vigilance, arousal and learning, she is responsible for some of the symptoms of the thunderbolt: the heart beats faster, the pupils dilate… The norepinephrine prevents us to sleep and decreases our appetite.

The symptoms of lightning are reinforced by the release of adrenaline, which also occurs at this time. Our heart rhythm goes out of control, we become red, we have a stomach ache… Our body gets a burst of energy, as if he was about to have to flee. Fortunately for the survival of our species, dopamine counterbalances this effect. The Hormone of pleasure and motivation, which is released in particular when we engage in a pleasurable activity, the dopamine can pass the stage of initial stress: desire is the strongest, and the meeting is successful.

The central actor of this involuntary answer of our organs, that it feels, literally, in our guts, is located in the heart of the brain: it is the hypothalamus. This small region of the size of a hazelnut is involved in important physiological functions such as sleep, the sensations of hunger and thirst, sleep, or even the regulation of the body temperature. During the meeting, it is the hypothalamus that sends the adrenal glands to signal the production of noradrenaline and adrenaline. And therefore, that we stress, as the brain is in such a hurry that it works!

 

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