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Biology 202
2001 Third Web Report
On Serendip

What's Love Got To Do With It?

Sarah McCawley

"What's love got to do with it? What's love, but a second hand emotion?"

-Tina Turner

Tina Turner, along many artists before and after her, has written songs about love, but what is love? Why do people say they see fireworks when they fall in love? Why do your knees go weak, your palms sweat, your stomach does flip-flops and you begin to stammer when you fall in love? What is it about emotions, including love that seems to effect your entire body, both mentally and physically? Everyday, people talk about feeling happy, feeling sad, feeling anxious...and so on, but what causes emotions, in particular, what causes someone to say they are in love?

Yes, even a simple sentence such as "I love you" has to be encoded in a specific neurochemical process to exert its effect on the person who gets to hear it. Much of the control mechanism for our emotions rests with neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that act at the points where nerve cells connect with each other. The prevalence, or the presence or absence of specific amounts of neurotransmitters, as well as the density of receptor sites for specific neurotransmitters at nerve endings, will control to a wide extend the emotions to which we are subject (6).

Pheromones are natural scents, which play an important role in sexual communication. Animals and humans release masses of biological chemicals in tears, saliva and perspiration. These aromas convey signals relating to mood, status, drive and health to the subconscious awareness of the female. The dominant male will exude more of these biological attractants than his submissive counterpart, consequently he inevitably attracts more females and enjoys more conquests. This philosophy holds well in the animal world, pheromones are consciously detected over considerable distances and serve at times in place of spoken communication. They help animals mark territory, recognize mates, and signal sexual interest. For example, female dogs in heat leave their pheromone and can attract male dogs over a mile away (5).

Also, involved in chemistry are dopamine and norepinephrine, chemical cousins of amphetamines. Dopamine, a neurochemical released by PEA, makes us feel good.(1) A recent study done at Emory University shows that female voles (small rodents) choose their mates in response to dopamine being released in their brains. When injected with dopamine in a male vole's presence, the female will pick him out of a crowd later. Our love food, chocolate, also elevates levels of dopamine in the brain. (5). These three chemicals combine to give us infatuation or "chemistry." It is why new lovers feel euphoric and energized, and float on air. It is also why new lovers can make love for hours and talk all night for weeks on end. This is the chemistry or the love sparks we all seek. (1). This adds an interesting twist to the way we operate in society. Divorce is seen as a huge faux pas, but according to our brain chemistry there is no reason why we should be monogamous. Nonetheless, there may be reasons why those people in monogamous relationships stay in them. Besides the addictive nature of the endorphins, the importance of memory in connection to our emotions may be very important.

Emotions play an important role when learning and memory circuits are being established. The strength of the synaptic connection that is formed when a memory is created is directly connected to the strength of the emotions at the time. This is why trivial events are easily forgotten and why emotional patterns are hard to change. This also might help to explain why those marriages that have lasted so long will last even longer. During adulthood the neural connections continue to change more slowly and less frequently. Instead of new pathways being formed, the existing pathways are reshaped 1)What Is Chemistry in Love Relationships? , CyberLove

2)Engineering Love, Addendum 2 , On Yohimbe.org

3)Addicted to Love, Jane's Brain Page

1)The Science of Love , On ABCnews.com

1) The Chemistry of Love

1)Body Chemistry




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