Whether yours is familial, romantic or platonic, we all know what it is to love and be loved. It’s the subject of our favourite films, the basis of our most rewarding and challenging life experiences, and fundamentally, it’s the energy source that keeps our species going.
Although we associate love with the heart, it’s actually the brain that gets the blood pumping when it comes to our interpersonal relationships.
Here’s what’s going on in your brain when you’re in love...
Love is neurochemical
Core to the experience of love is oxytocin: a hormone that helps us forge connections with others, makes us feel good and reduces stress.
Oxytocin is released when someone smiles at you, hugs you - or even while you’re playing with your dog.
Love is addictive
Love isn’t a drug - but it can feel addictive. In fact, its early stages, romantic love stimulates the same neural pathways as substance addiction: activating brain regions associated with reward pathways, and stimulating dopamine.
Love clouds your judgement
Studies have found that when we’re thinking about or looking at someone we love, activity in the pre-frontal cortex (a key area for judgement and planning ahead) reduces. So love really is blind, limiting your capacity for objective judgement.
Love feels rewarding
The main hormones involved in the experience of love are oxytocin and vasopressin, which stimulate the release of dopamine. Dopamine is associated with euphoric states and brings us pleasure and satisfaction, which explains why love (in all its forms) feels so good.