Monday, December 28, 2009 12/28 - 1/1/10 - the delanceyplace week of love!

12/28/09 to 1/1/10: The
Week of

In today's encore excerpt - the neural and
chemical basis of love. Why doesn't passionate love
last? -
because we develop a chemical tolerance:

"Anthropologist Helen Fisher ... has devoted much of
her career to studying the biochemical pathways of
love in all its manifestations: lust, romance,
attachment, the way they wax and wane ... [In her
studies] when each subject looked at his or her loved
one, the parts of the brain linked to reward and
pleasure - the ventral tegmental area and the caudate
nucleus - lit up. ... Love lights up the caudate nucleus
because it is home to a dense spread of receptors for
a neurotransmitter called dopamine ... which creates
intense energy, exhiliration, focused attention ... [thus]
love makes you bold, makes you bright, makes you
run real risks, which you sometimes survive, and
sometimes you don't. ...

"Researchers have long hypothesized that people with
obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have a
serotonin 'imbalance.' Drugs like Prozac seem to
alleviate OCD by increasing the amount of this
neurotransmitter available at the juncture between
neurons. [Researchers] compared the lover's
serotonin levels with those from the OCD group and
another group who were free from both passion and
mental illness. Levels of serotonin in both the
obsessives' blood and the lovers' blood were 40
percent lower than those in normal subjects. ...
Translation: Love and mental illness may be difficult
to tell apart. ...

"Why doesn't passionate love last? ... Biologically
speaking, the reasons romantic love fades may be
found in the way our brains respond to the surge and
pulse of dopamine ... cocaine users describe the
phenomenon of tolerance: the brain adapts to the
excessive input of the drug ... From a physiological
point of view, [couples move] from the
dopamine-drenched state of romantic love to the
relative quiet of the oxytocin-induced attachment.
Oxytocin is a hormone that promotes a feeling of
connection, bonding."

Lauren Slater, "Love: The Chemical Reaction,"
National Geographic, February 2006, pp. 35-45


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