Understanding the science of love
14 February 2017
Ah, love. There is nothing quite like it to to get your heart racing, to brighten your mood or to put a spring in your step. So with the promise of a flower-filled Valentine’s Day ahead, it got us thinking – is there any science behind why we experience physiological symptoms in response to an emotional state? Researchers in the US certainly believe there is. By using sophisticated neuroimaging techniques to analyse people in the first flush of romantic love, researchers noted a number of unique areas of activity in the brain that could provide an explanation for this combination of symptoms. Certainly, we can all relate to the feeling of excitement from being close to, or even just thinking about the object of our affection. It is this excitement that is thought to spur these parts of the brain into action, in turn triggering the release of a cocktail of hormones directly into the bloodstream. These hormones include both epinephrine, commonly known as adrenaline, and norepinephrine. Both are well known to influence various physical and psychological processes. In the case of adrenaline, it increases blood flow, the rate at which we breath and our heart rate. Furthermore, it inhibits insulin production and accelerates the synthesis of glucose and fat to create a short-term energy boost for the body. This means our response to falling in love is not dissimilar to what we might experience during an acute stress response to a perceived threat i.e. a variation of the fight-or-flight mechanism. At the same time, norepinephrine, which is closely linked to fellow mood-regulating neurotransmitter dopamine, can have a positive affect on cognitive functioning whilst exerting a potent anti-anxiolytic effect too. It is reassuring of course, to know that during the first heady days of a new romance, the symptoms we feel are more than just psychosomatic in nature. However, this field of neuroscience research also shows significant potential in developing new therapies that may benefit a range of mental health conditions symptoms too.
Emeritus Research is a dedicated Clinical Research Centre based in Melbourne, Australia. We conduct clinical trials from Phase Ib to Phase IV in a range of areas that encompass two therapeutic area pillars – inflammatory conditions and lifestyle diseases. We also LOVE love!