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Monday, December 11, 2017
Article written by Michael Russell

Love: We Can't Live Without It

Go online on any given day and you can find millions of different websites devoted to love. Online love tests, love calculators, dating sites, poems about love, you name it, you can find it. Love is one the most complex human emotions and has caused so much happiness and grief through the ages, that some of our best art has sprung from its destruction.

The chemical composition of our bodies is very complex. When scientists began trying to understand the process of love in humans, they came up with some surprising findings. First, the part of the brain that is actively involved in love is very small, especially when you compare it to the larger brain activity involved in friendship. Second, the active areas of the brain are different from other emotions such as fear or anger. Parts of your brain in charge of love include the area involved in gut feelings and more interestingly, the area of the brain which generates the euphoria associated with drugs like cocaine. The brains of those in love don't look like people experiencing strong emotions, but more like those who have been snorting cocaine. Love uses many of the same pathways that are activated when a person is becoming addicted to something.

In addition to all this, apparently there are three stages of love. The first, lust, is driven purely by hormones like testosterone and estrogen. These hormones increase your willingness to hook up with someone, even if they may not be your 'type'. Attraction is the second stage. "Love-struck" may be a better way to put it. This is the stage where you can't think of anything else. You might lose your appetite and may not be able to sleep because of your preoccupation with the object of your affection. In this stage there are a group on chemicals that are flooded into your body. Dopamine, which is also associated with cocaine and nicotine, is one.

Another is norepinephrine, or adrenaline, which can make us sweat and send our heart racing with love. Serotonin is one of the more important chemicals involved with love, but it has also been associated with people who are insane. The last stage is attachment. This is what happens after attraction, if the bond between a couple is going to last. There are two hormones involved in this stage too. Oxytocin is released during childbirth and helps create a strong bond between a mother and her child. It is also released during orgasm and scientists think it promotes bonding between two people when they are intimate. There's a theory that the more sex a couple has, the closer they will bond, which is good news for men!

Love has mystified humans for eons. Even with all the explanations by scientists of the various chemicals involved in love, it sure doesn't make it any easier when you are in the throes of lust or love struck. As someone once wrote, love is a many splendored thing. Many would rather live without its side effects, but as a whole, the human race wouldn't have been around as long as it has without it.
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