Valentine’s day is upon us. With love hearts adorning every shop window, radio stations playing non-stop love songs and an army of loved up teddy bears invading homes there is never a better time to look at the science of love.
A recent meta-analysis has indicated that falling in love can take a little as a fifth of a second and can produce similar euphoric effects to cocaine.
“These results confirm love has a scientific basis,” says Stephanie Ortigue who conducted the study at Syracuse University. The study has shown 12 areas of the brain work simultaneously to release chemicals such as dopamine, oxytocin, adrenaline and vasopressin, bringing about euphoria when falling in love.
It was also found that the nerve growth factor levels also increased, especially in those who had just fallen in love. Ortigue claims that while this is interesting in terms of being a neuroscience curiosity it could have potential therapeutic possibilities for those suffering depression after heartbreak. She says “”By understanding why they fall in love and why they are so heartbroken, they can use new therapies.”
Now for anyone that has ever been down about a failed relationship that is no doubt a tempting solution, a pill to cure heartache would sell in the millions. However, having seen ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Minds’ I am wary of using science to get rid of heart break!
Alternatively you could look at this information in another way. If researchers are claiming that by understanding the chemical process they may be able to treat a broken heart, could they then not use the same knowledge to create love? Will we end up with a situation where married couples on hard times can have chemical and hormonal therapies to fall back in love with each other? I doubt it as the comments by comments by Ortigue seem to be no more than the typical ‘5-10 year’ theoretical enhancements the media loves.
But can you use this information to impact on the success of dates you have tonight, no? Although, if it does all go wrong then blaming biochemistry might bring a little bit of comfort.
Ortigue S, Bianchi-Demicheli F, Patel N, Frum C, & Lewis JW (2010). Neuroimaging of love: fMRI meta-analysis evidence toward new perspectives in sexual medicine. The journal of sexual medicine, 7 (11), 3541-52 PMID: 20807326