Science Explains Love as Chemical Reaction

    Each and every one of us has probably been there: standing awkwardly in front of the object of our affection, palms sweaty, heart pounding uncontrollably, unable to form coherent sentences or complete thoughts before spewing out a tangled mess of ridiculously embarrassing anecdotes about the day’s happenings. Yes, it’s that horribly uncomfortable feeling of being in love that transforms each of us into a helpless, graceless pile of rampant sentiments and emotions.

    Be it reciprocated or unrequited, love has agonized, perplexed and humiliated mankind since the beginning of time. Mortifying the unsuspecting romantic, destroying friendships and causing unimaginable degrees of awkwardness and pain are just a few of its methods of tormenting humanity. So where exactly did people get the idea that love is this beautiful, profound and passionate zeal, full of unending blissful delight and dreams never ceasing to come true? What is it about this passionate emotion that transforms normal people into obsessive, self-sacrificing, irrational and completely preposterous individuals? To answer these questions, we turn to a seemingly unlikely romance expert – science.

    With the wealth of technological and scientific innovations this day and age, it appears as though researchers are helping to unravel the mysterious secrets behind this ridiculous emotion and reducing love to a science.

    By using magnetic resonance imaging scans, scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York have found some interesting evidence concerning the science of love. The department of neurology and neurosciences at Albert Einstein College conducted experiments on several young, smitten college students in the throes of new love in order to answer some of our burning questions. During the experiments, students looked at pictures of their beloved while their brains were scanned, and researchers used these scans to determine what the brains of these students looked like.

    The results showed that the caudate area and the ventral tegmental areas of the brain are particularly active when a person falls in love. These areas of the brain are also involved in cravings and addictions and affect an individual’s pleasure and motivation, explaining why an otherwise sensible person might experience warped judgment or obsessive behavior while under the influence of a particularly powerful love spell.

    According to these brain studies, when a person falls in love, the ventral tegmentum floods the caudate with the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is associated with feelings of euphoria. The caudate then sends signals for more dopamine so as to create an even greater sense of elation. Interestingly, this exact brain system becomes active when a person is high on cocaine or amphetamines, which elevates dopamine levels in the same areas.

    Studies suggest that the experience of new love is strikingly similar to that associated with drugs. When it comes down to it, love isn’t really some arcane, unexplainable feeling or a profound and beautiful emotion – it is an inherent drive caused by a collection of chemical reactions working together to dump out a flood of neurotransmitters. Romantic, isn’t it?

    Just like hunger or the desire for sex or drugs, love is the sort of drive that can extremely alter a person’s behavior and leave that individual wanting and craving to the point where judgment is distorted and only the acquisition of the desired object is important.

    Why, then, does society cling to this idealistic vision of love as a coveted and wonderful treasure? When people study for exams, read stimulating opinion articles in the Guardian, chow down on a breakfast burrito or get thirsty after a long day, their brains experience plenty of incredible chemical reactions and synaptic activities. With the abundance of neurotransmitter activity to choose from in the brain, the crowd of individuals lacking in love shouldn’t upset themselves because they’re running a little short on dopamine production.

    In the end, perhaps love really isn’t as big of a deal as society makes it out to be. Elevated brain activity can be acquired in a number of ways besides being in love, as scientific studies have shown.

    So for all of the jaded singles out there, until you find that one special person who elevates the dopamine levels in your ventral tegmentum, comfort yourself in knowing that there are alternative ways to increase the neurotransmitter activity in your brain without blowing off friends, spending your life savings on high-maintenance partners or having awkward encounters with your lover’s ridiculous families and irksome friends.

    Take pride that just by reading this article, your neurotransmitters are going wild, and you didn’t even need to dress up or pay for dinner.

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