The feeling of love is probably one of the most powerful emotions known to man. Throughout history it has had a strong influence over man causing them sometimes to do some pretty crazy things. But what is it about love that makes the brain do stupid things. Lets take a closer look at how love affects the brain – so that it never catches you off-guard!
Looking back at love through history:
Before looking into the science of how love affects the brain; lets first take a closer look at how people have been influenced by love in the past.
- The Taj Mahal love story – one of the most epic tales of eternal love that has stood the test of time. The story centers around the protagonist (prince Shah Jahan ) who built the Taj Mahal as a monument to represent the love for his deceased wife. It apparently took 2 years and the intensive labor of 22000 workers to successfully erect the structure. The structure also changes color at different times of the day; which is believed to signify the different moods of the woman. The structure is now considered to be one of the seven wonders of the world. It is said that it the death of his love left him in such as state of devastation that he ordered the court to mourn for a period of 2 years. Now if that is not love – what is?
- The tragic love story of Tristan and Isolde – The story occurs in medieval times during the reign of king Arthur. Isolde (the daughter of the king of Ireland) was betrothed to King Mark of Cornwall. King Mark requested his nephew( Tristan) to accompany Isolde back to Cornwall and lets just say fate caused them to fall madly in love. Isolde married the king but her love still belonged to Tristan. Eventually King Mark did find out about the love between his wife and nephew; he decided to forgive Isolde but banish Tristan. Tristan then found love in a woman that shared similar traits to Isolde but never consummated their relationship due to his love for Isolde. Continue reading with caution……Tristan got very ill and requested for Isolde to come and see him. If the ship he sent out returned with white sails- it would mean that Isolde was coming however black sails would mean the opposite. Isolde did decide to come however, one of the men lied to Tristan that the ship had black sails; resulting in Tristan’s demise. Isolde could not arrive on time and soon she too died of a broken heart.
How love affects the brain during heart break
Now that all the soppy stuff is out of the way; Lets find out how the brain reacts to heart break. According to studies, fMRI studies show that brain imagery of heart broken people actually exhibit similar patterns to those suffering from physical pain. According to other studies, being with a loved one creates neural pathways that strengthen so much that the brain begins to exhibit withdrawal symptoms similar to a recovering drug addict when detachment occurs. Who knew? sometimes love can be bad for you.
Another scary things about heart break highlighted by stories of people in the past; is that fact that it makes you a little bit crazy. According to an article published by the greater good magazine, the feeling of heart break triggers so many parts of the brain; that it inherently causes you to lose touch with common sense. To top it off, heart break releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline according to science alert.
How the brain reacts to love
Now to the fun stuff….. how love affects the brain when you fall madly in love.
- Love makes people addicted, according to science, in a similar way that drug addicts are. Research shows similar activities in the brain with people experiencing love and addiction.
- Love activates the Opioid system which is the part of the brain responsible for liking something. When we meet a potential partner, this part of the brain lights up to ensure natural selection at its best.
- Love can lower serotonin levels. This is a main attribute to OCD which explains why people in love tend to focus all their attention on the one they love – sometimes to the point of obsession. People in love also tend to lose focus which is why you shouldn’t decide to fall in love during studying.
- Love can increase empathy and get someone all touchy- feely by increasing their grey matter volume.
There it is – some details of how love affects the brain. The mechanisms of the brain during love are far more complex than can be sufficiently outlined in this post; however it is a great starting point to get you thinking.