Does Love Scramble Your Brain?

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Does Love Scramble Your Brain?

Jim Windell


            There’s no question about it. We act different when we’re in love.

            And to underscore that fact, we have many sayings and phrases which reflect how we change when we’re in love.

            Love is blind; Crazy in love; Head over heels in love; Blinded by love. These are just a few.

            But how exactly do we change? Does love affect our brain?

            In a unique study that comes out of Australia, we now have a better understanding about how romantic love alters our brain chemistry.  

            Surveying 1,556 young adults who identified themselves as being “in love,” this research focused on lover’s emotional responses to their partners, their behaviors around them, and their level of focus on their loved ones.

            Previously, it’s been known that romantic love changes the brain by releasing the so-called love hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin is responsible for the euphoria we feel when falling in love. As a result of this study by researchers at the Australian National University, the University of Canberra and the University of South Australia, we have a clearer view of how a part of the brain is responsible for putting our loved one on a pedestal in that first flush of romance.

            Adam Bode, lead researcher and Ph.D. student from the Australian National University, notes that the study – recently published in the journal Behavioural Sciences – sheds light on the mechanisms that cause romantic love.

            “We actually know very little about the evolution of romantic love,” Bode says. “As a result, every finding that tells us about romantic love’s evolution is an important piece of the puzzle that’s just been started.”

            Bode points out that thoughts about romantic love first emerged some five million years ago after we split from our ancestors, the great apes. As is generally known, the ancient Greeks philosophized about love a lot and recognized that it was both an amazing as well as a traumatic experience. The oldest poem ever to be recovered was in fact a love poem dated to around 2000 BC.

            As the University of Canberra academic and University of South Australia Adjunct Associate Professor, Dr. Phil Kavanagh suggests, this study shows that romantic love is linked to changes in behavior as well as emotion.

            “We know the role that oxytocin plays in romantic love, because we get waves of it circulating throughout our nervous system and blood stream when we interact with loved ones,” Dr. Kavanagh says. “The way that loved ones take on special importance, however, is due to oxytocin combining with dopamine, a chemical that our brain releases during romantic love. Essentially, love activates pathways in the brain associated with positive feelings.”

            Bode and Kavanagh indicate that the next stage of their research involves investigating the differences between men and women in their approach to love, and a worldwide survey identifying four different types of romantic lovers.

            To read the original article, find it with this reference:

Bode, A. & Kavanagh, P.S. (2023). Romantic Love and Behavioral Activation System Sensitivity to a Loved One. Behavioral Sciences, 13(11):921.


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