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The chemistry of love

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Do you think that there is real chemistry behind love? Yes! Chemistry is at the bottom of every step in a relationship, and this field is under continuous research. When you fall in love, your brain suffers some changes and also certain chemical compounds are released. Researchs usually consider three stages in love: lust, attraction and attachment.

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1) Lust
Lust is driven by initial physical attraction and flirting. This stage can depend on characteristics such as a symmetrical face and proportionate body dimensions. Flirting can include gazing into the eyes, touching, and mirroring in body language. The two chemicals that surface during this stage are the sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen) and pheromones.

In the animal world, PHEROMONES are individual scent "prints" found in urine or sweat that dictate sexual behavior and attract the opposite sex. The existence of human pheromones was discovered in 1986 by scientists at the Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia and its counterpart in France. They found these chemicals in human sweat.

2) Falling in love - Attraction
The romantic or passionate love is characterized by euphoria when things are going well, and terrible mood swings when they're not. When you fall in love you may have many physical symptoms: lose of appetite, can't sleep, can't concentrate, palms sweat, butterflies in stomach... This is due to surging brain chemicals called monoamines:

- DOPAMINE: it's commonly associated with the pleasure system of the brain, providing feelings of enjoyment and reinforcement to motivate us to do certain activities. It's released by naturally-rewarding experiences, such as sex or food. Some research studies show that when female rodents were injected dopamine in the presence of a male rodent, the female will pick him out of a crowd later.

- PHENYLETHYLAMINE: It's a natural amphetamine like the known drug and can cause the same stimulation effects. It contributes to that on-top-of-the-world feeling that attraction can bring, and gives you the energy to stay up day and night with a new love.

- SEROTONIN: it controls impulses, unruly passions, obsessive behavior, aiding the sense of "being in control".

- NOREPINEPHRINE is another neurotransmitter which induces euphoria in your brain, exciting the body by giving it a booster dose of natural adrenaline. This causes the heart to beat faster and blood pressure to rise. That's why you can experience a pounding heart or sweaty palms when you see someone you're attracted to.

3) Attachment - Staying together
There is a sense of calm and stability that we feel with a long-term partner, a sort of bond that keeps couples together. This kind of love is driven these hormones:

- OXYTOCIN: it's sometimes known as "the cuddle chemical." It's the hormone best known for its role in inducing labor by stimulating contractions. But recently it has been observed that it may influence our ability to bond with others, as both genders release this hormone when touching and cuddling, with the oxytocin level peaking during orgasm.

- VASOPRESSIN: also called as "the monogamy chemical". Researchers have found that suppression of vasopressin can cause males to abandon their love nest and seek new mates.

- ENDORPHINS: they are biochemical compounds that enhance our immune system, block the lesion of blood vessel, have anti-aging, anti-stress and pain-relieving effect, and also help to improve your memory.

High levels of oxytocin and vasopressin may interfere with dopamine and norepinephrine pathways, which may explain why with the time attachment grows as mad passionate love fades.

Well, as you can see, there is real chemistry taking place in our body when we are in love! This doesn't mean that love is only chemistry, but at least now you can understand this feeling from a different point of view, don't you?

Silvia Martínez

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