This is what happens to your brain when you fall in love

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Sarah Biddlecombe
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Sometimes it’s hard to imagine our innermost thoughts and feelings as simple chemical messages firing off in our brains.

But even the deepest emotions that we experience – such as feelings of intense hatred or the heady moments of falling in love – can be equated with neurotransmitters nestled across our brains.

Unsurprisingly, the study of what happens in our brains as we fall in love has fascinated scientists for decades, and numerous discoveries have been made about the chemical processes that occur as our emotions tip from lust to love.

Now two scientists have finally collated the evidence, with Xiaomeng (Mona) Xu, an assistant professor of experimental psychology, and Ariana Tart-Zelvin, a clinical doctoral candidate, both working in Idaho State University, sharing the most compelling findings to date in an article for Scientific American.

First of all, the pair reference a study that indicates the process of falling in love is monitored by two brain regions.

The are the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the caudate nucleus, and they work to distribute the “feel good” neurotransmitter dopamine across our brains as well as playing an important role in regulating our reward pathway.

This means that, as we fall in love, we literally begin to crave being around our partner because they make us feel good.

Secondly, the scientists state that as we fall deeper in love, this feeling grows stronger – but only for as long as we continue to be satisfied by the relationship.

They reference the findings from their own neuroimaging research, which found the simple act of thinking about a loved one can both make you feel good but also help protect you from negative emotions such as stress and pain.

And happily, the researchers conclude that these feelings don’t necessarily fade over time. Contrary to the idea that the heady first stages of love are more powerful than the comfortable and established later stages, the researchers reference a study which showed participants who had been married for an average of 21.4 years and still felt passionate love for each other had similar dopamine activity to those who were at the beginning of their relationship.

So perhaps keeping the passion alive really is the key to a successful relationship…

To read the full article, click here

Images: iStock / Twentieth Century Fox


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Sarah Biddlecombe

Sarah Biddlecombe is an award-winning journalist and Digital Commissioning Editor at Stylist. Follow her on Twitter