There’s a connection between our brain and love…but what is it? A number of hormones are involved in the link and can impact the brain when we feel love. From dopamine to cortisol, what hormones influence our brain when we are in love and how do they do this? To find out more information, keep reading this blog post!
Studies have shown that when people are in love with someone, the areas of their brain that are rich in dopamine become very active. This hormone, involved in the reward and motivation system of our brain, is therefore very important and has a role in producing those feelings of love when we are romantically involved with someone. Studies show that the levels of dopamine increase when we are in love, and this creates feelings of great pleasure. The high levels of dopamine that are apparent during love are similar to those when someone may take drugs or alcohol. It is all connected to the same reward system.
Cortisol is the hormone that is responsible for stress in our bodies. When we are facing a stressful situation, cortisol levels rise to provide us with the necessary energy to deal with the situation. Cortisol levels also rise when we first start to fall in love. Research shows that after around 1-2 years, cortisol levels return to normal. As dopamine levels can still remain high for a long time in relationships, the love that began as a stressor to the brain now becomes more fully associated with reward and pleasure.
When we first fall in love, serotonin levels begin to decrease as cortisol levels are beginning to increase. As serotonin is the main hormone that can produce feelings of comfort, its low levels at the beginning of a relationship are responsible for feelings of infatuation and preoccupying thoughts.
Estrogen and testosterone
A region of the brain called the hypothalamus is responsible for stimulating the ovaries and testes to begin releasing the sex hormones when you are attracted to someone. Both estrogen and testosterone play a role in men and women, and testosterone tends to cause an increase in libido. The release of these hormones is often associated with the emotion, lust. Also, when we become sexually aroused, this tends to shut off regions of our brain that are responsible for critical-thinking and self-awareness, which may cause us to make some irrational decisions.
Oxytocin has a large role during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. It helps to promote love and bonding between parent and baby. Oxytocin is released through skin-to-skin contact, and can also be released during sex. When oxytocin is released, it promotes feelings of comfort, closeness, security and bonding.
Vasopressin has a similar impact when it comes to love as oxytocin. Vasopressin, which may also be referred to as antidiuretic hormone (ADH), is released during love and promotes the behaviour and feelings that are associated with long-term committed relationships.