The Biology of Love

1 Nov

I’m a huge fan of TED.com the online arm of the TED conferences (Technology Entertainment Design).  The talks from each of the conferences are available for online viewing.  For our trip to Jacksonville, I cued up a few TED videos to watch on my iPad.  One of the most educational and astounding talks was from Helen Fisher, an anthropologist.  The talk was titled The Biology of Love, which centered around why do we crave love so much, even to the point that we would die for it? To learn more about our very real, very physical need for romantic love, Helen Fisher and her research team took MRIs of people in love — and people who had just been dumped.

Dr. Fisher is a leading expert on the biology of love and attraction.She is currently the most referenced scholar in the love research community. In 2005 she was hired by Match.com to help build Chemistry.com, which used her research and experience to create both hormone-based and personality-based matching systems. She was one of the main speakers at the 2006 and 2008 TED Conferences.

But what I’ve done is I’ve looked at the psychological literature over the last 25 years and looked at all the things that happen to you when you fall in love. And those things that happen, that giddiness, that elation, that euphoria, that sleeplessness, that loss of appetite, is associated with high levels of dopamine, and norpenephrine. These are natural stimulants in the brain that give you feelings of elation. It’s my hypothesis that when you feel that elation for somebody, and you’re up in the middle of the night lying in bed, running over the conversation you had at work today, or in the gym, what’s happening in the brain is your high levels of dopamine and norpenephrine and probably low levels of seratonin which gives you that obsessive thinking. You know, when you’re in love with somebody, you can’t stop thinking about them. I mean, this turns into an obsession.

After watching the video I had a new mental model of love, its meaning, and our need for it.  Love in it’s rare form is a chemical reaction, which explains a lot in terms of how some people (including myself) react to breakups, infidelity, being single, etc.  For your viewing pleasure here is the video:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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