Based on our potential lovers’ looks alone, we either swipe left or right in split-second decisions.We create online profiles, curating our favorite traits and launching “ideal selves” out into an infinite sea of potentiality that has become the online dating pool.Usually, the first feeling one experiences (hopefully! A group of chemicals called ‘pheromones’ play an important role at this stage.
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Norepinephrine (aka adrenaline) is responsible for our racing heart and sweaty palms, essentially causing us to feel a sudden ‘rush’.
Another important monoamine is dopamine, which is the key to our experience of pleasure, triggering feelings of reward upon its release in the brain.
Like drug users who crave a fix, so do lovers crave their partner, and even feel withdrawal when they’re not around. A romantic partner, a kiss, or any rewarding object, will kick this wanting system into high gear.
As Fisher and her colleagues write in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, “Increased levels of central dopamine contribute to the lover’s focused attention on the beloved and the lover’s tendency to regard the beloved as unique.” A factory deep within the midbrain called the ventral tegmental area (VTA) is a critical region said to be origin of dopaminergic cell bodies.
While the role of dopamine in our complex brain’s functions may be overstated in pop culture’s understanding of neurological science, it does play a role in, among other things, romantic love.
A study by James Burkett and Larry Young titled “The Behavioral, Anatomical and Pharmacological Parallels Between Social Attachment, Love, and Addiction,” reveals the significance of dopamine in mammalian pair bonding: When the researchers blocked dopamine receptors in the nucleus accumbens (NA) of prairie voles (small monogamous rodents), the animals did not pair up together and mate.
National Geographic Channel’s “Brain Games” takes viewers inside the workings of the mind, with fascinating experiments and interactive games designed to unlock the mysteries of our brains.
Host Jason Silva gets help from neuroscientists and cognitive experts in his quest to help us all better understand, well, us.
As February begins and Valentine’s Day looms, many may be experiencing classic pre-first-date symptoms – butterflies, a racing heartbeat, sweaty palms, and preoccupation to the point of lack of focus in school or work.
Even though the anticipation can be almost unbearable, not to worry!