The Chemistry of Love
Reactions Science Videos | February 10, 2014
Love has inspired timeless songs and sonnets — not to mention a few less-than-timeless romantic comedies. Now the chemistry of love is the subject of our latest Reactions episode! The video explains how feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and oxytocin fuel lifelong pair bonds in prairie voles, which — along with humans — are the mammalian kingdom's leading monogamists.
"If you block oxytocin receptors, you can totally cut off that pair-bonding response," explains Abigail Marsh, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Georgetown University. "People who excite romantic feelings in us also probably trigger increases in oxytocin, which results in an increase in dopamine, and then we find that person someone we want to stick with." In the video, Marsh also explains that addictive drugs affect the brain in ways similar to love — which helps explain the painful, withdrawal-like symptoms of heartbreak.