14 February 2013
Posted in Dr. Dare's Lab
Today is Valentine’s Day, a day of conversation hearts, heart-felt cards and carnations. But have you ever stopped to consider the reasons we feel attraction and fall in love?
Although shared interests and compatible personalities may set you and a partner up for a great first date, that coveted “spark” of attraction may be a result of biochemistry. Researchers at the University of Bern in Switzerland believe that initial attraction comes down to pheromones.
Pheromones are an odorless chemical detected by an organ in the nose. Our pheromones carry information about our immune systems, among other things. Research has found that women consistently prefer pheromones from males with immune systems very different from their own. Biologically, this matching system gives offspring the ability to fight off a wider range of infections and a better chance at a healthy life.
Once the initial attraction is established, what makes some couples fall head-over-heels while others fall flat? Researchers at Rutgers University may have an answer!
Once again, biochemicals may be the cause. Helen Fischer, a Rutgers University scientist, breaks down the process of “falling in love” into three stages. In each stage, our brains are riddled with different chemical combinations.
The first stage is called the “Lust Stage,” and is characterized by heightened levels of the hormones testosterone and oestrogen. This stage prepares you to seek out a suitable mate.
The second stage is the “Love-Struck Stage,” in which a person’s feelings for their significant other border on obsession and they have a traditional case of puppy love. A group of neuro-transmitters called “monoamines,” including dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin play an important role during this stage. This powerful chemical concoction sends our heart racing and our brain reeling into behavior that closely resembles temporary insanity and mental illness.
The final phase is the “Attachment Stage.” Two hormones released by the nervous system are thought to be important in this stage. Oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone,” causes the feeling of an intimate bond between partners. Vasopressin is an important chemical in preserving this bond over time.
It seems that Love Potion No. 9 is more chemical than magical, and that our bodies are more than capable of creating in on their own!