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Anneke Johnson

Professor Sherman
Science Through Film and Fiction

The Biochemistry of love
Debunking that Magical Moment

Throughout history, the lovesick have attempted to sway the affections of
the people they adore. Toying with others’ affections can be traced back from
Aphrodite seducing all of the gods on Olympus all the way to Ron Weasley’s Chocolate
Cauldrons-induced love for Romilda Vane. Love potion tales conjured up by our
cultures almost always have disastrous results. The common claim is that one cannot
simulate the real feelings and emotions involved in love. Romantics attribute love to
a mystical property that exists outside of the realm of science. They say it cannot be
recreated though unnatural means. The following paper will delve into the science
behind the feelings of love and whether or not we can apply this knowledge to our
love lives. Each step in the process of falling and staying in love can be analyzed
scientifically to explain why a lover feels and acts the way he or she does.

Love is made up of mental and physical processes that are dictated by the
release of chemicals in the body. It is important to understand the mechanics of love
and the chemicals involved in these processes. It is commonly accepted that there are
three general stages of love: lust, romantic attraction, and attachment. Lust, attraction,
and attachment do not occur because of a chance alignment of the stars. Rather, they
originate in the chemical signals being exchanged subconsciously by two compatible

Lust has developed to help us find and pursue potential mates. Lust is
driven mainly by superficial qualities that represent the fertility and sustainability of a

1). 3). McClintock thinks there's an evolutionary explanation. Men subconsciously look for facial symmetry. The neurotransmitters epinephrine and nerepinephrine are in the adrenal glands on top of the kidneys. Drug companies have applied this knowledge in the form of products such as Viagra which artificially cause the release of nitric-oxide. While appearances play an important role. 2). the nerves of the spinal cord. Women are attracted to the smell of a man who was genetically similar to. In a woman. are also potential factors. 2). but far enough removed from their dads. the central brain.potential mate. 459). The children of a pairing such as this would have the best matching set of genes without the genetic defects of incest. Sexual desire is the simplest form of love to map out chemically. Stimuli causes the genital area to release nitric oxide which dilates blood vessels and increases the flow of blood (Fisher). estrogen creates feelings of desire by causing dopamine to be released. but biology and chemistry work together to describe in detail the chemicals that become involved when we are put in sexual situations and how they affect our body. Mating with someone too different leads to the loss of desirable gene combinations (Gupta and Lynch. which is the main cause of desire (Lemonick. The testes are responsible for most of the hormone testosterone. the testes. Not only can observational science tell us what situations turn men and women on. or the financial stability to provide for a future child. and a waist-to-hip ratio of . Cleanliness and the appearance of wealth. the ovaries and brain are responsible for producing the hormone estrogen (Lemonick. Apart from regulating ovulation cycles in women. Reactions are occurring mainly in the heart and blood. and the ovaries. smells alert the mind to potential mates. Women are also attracted to facial symmetry. Epinephrine and nerepinephrine play a crucial role in lust by contributing to arousal and orgasm.7 (Marlowe. When a man walks into a bar and spies a beautiful woman leaning over and beckoning him seductively. but are more interested in lower body mass index supplemented by muscles that could protect them. This neurotransmitter originates in the central part of the brain and heightens a person’s . and in the brain. the epinephrine and nerepinephrine are responsible for the rush of adrenaline and subsequent rapid heart beat and sweaty palms (Lemonick. "Mating with someone too similar might lead to inbreeding".

The results were drastic. serotonin. Another neurotransmitter. and desires. Pheromones send signals to our hypothalamus to help determine our moods. a Swiss zoologist. feelings. Pheromones can best be described as odorless chemicals that are secreted by animals. They enter the nose and are processed by the vomeronasal organ and send signals to control the behavior of the receiver. One might argue that these chemicals may have been driving forces back in the neanderthal days. This helps assure that the couple gets together and that insemination occurs (Lemonick. works closely with dopamine to create a satisfied feeling and is especially prevalent after orgasm. Even if these results were not due in major part to pheromones. MHC genes are active mainly in the immune system and fighting infectious diseases. . ran an experiment studying the detection of pheromones in females. Females strongly preferred the t-shirts with a major histocompatibility complex. Women on the pill averaged $37 with no performance peak versus $53 for women off-pill (Miller). or MHC. Creating a child with partners with different MHC genes would create a larger diversity in the MHC genes which would heighten the possibility of an offspring being able to fight off infectious diseases (Wedekind and Penn). Dancers made about $70 an hour during their peak period of fertility. The team asked lap dancers to keep track of their tips over an extended period of time. 487).excitement and desire levels. 3). pick up the differences without knowing it and tip significantly more (Miller). versus about $35 while menstruating and $50 in between. He had 49 females smell the t-shirts of seven different men. different from their own. The men. One of the theories as to the odd findings in this study involved pheromones. Psychologist Geoffrey Miller and colleagues performed a study to test how much our subconscious minds are affected by biological clues. The hypothalamus regulates our emotions (Liman. they still imply that when women are at peak fertility they feel sexier and subconsciously pass signals along to men. Claus Wedekind. who cannot consciously tell the difference between an ovulating woman and a menstruating woman. Serotonin is responsible for obsessive thoughts about a lover. and would question the applicability in modern-day society.

Helen Fisher. calming anxiety. Attraction. This chemical stimulates the desire and reward section of the brain by triggering an intense rush of pleasure. Many of the same chemicals involved in lust are also present during the attraction stage. The same part of the brain. that processes the experiences involved in taking Ecstasy and cocaine is also stimulated during orgasm and the release of oxytocin (Fisher). the couple starts to genuinely enjoy spending time with each other even if sex is not involved. phobias. or the “romance” stage evolved because it encourages the couple get together and stay together long enough to make a child. These feelings grow after sex because oxytocin is flooded into the system during orgasm (Lemonick). Finally. Oxytocin. asked newly ‘love struck’ couples to have their brains examined with an MRI machine. attachment sustains that relationship as long as . plays a large role in attraction. the hypothalamus. She discovered they have high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. While romantic love allows for mating energy to be focused by causing obsessive thoughts and addictive tendencies. It is a chemical that helps maintain a happy feeling and keeps our moods under control by helping with sleep. norepinephrine and phenylethylamine released during this period. flushed skin and sweaty palms. This rush of pleasure can prove very addictive (Fisher.After the initial lust has worn away. In fact. and relieving depression. It is commonly known as the “cuddle hormone” because it brings out feelings of deep trust and a fuzzy happy feeling. and general depression (Szalavitz). serotonin has been proven so effective in increasing moods that it is now the most widely prescribed anti-depressant to combat anxiety. serotonin is one of the most important chemicals that may explain why when we fall in love and think about our partners constantly. Researchers say this is due to the dopamine. Love is often described as an addiction. which is released by the pituitary gland in the brain. Ted Talks). New lovers often describe feelings of giddiness. They report having a racing heart. An expert in the field.

A couple’s offspring has a better chance of success and survival if both parents stay together and combine their child-rearing efforts. 1048). caressing.necessary to raise a child. Chemically induced loyalty is credible in less complex mammals. Vasopressin is another important hormone in the long-term commitment stage and is released after sex. This could explain why men are so intrigued by breasts. No love potion has been successful so far. the voles had sex with many females and showed less aggression towards other males. This does not necessarily mean that there will not be one in the future. Walum tested the men for a gene called AVPR1A that releases vasopressin into the body. Dr. However. Fields such as pheromones have only been touched upon. Scientists have not yet been able to isolate . cheating. Young explained that. and intercourse stimulate the same parts of a woman’s body that are involved in giving birth and nursing. Larry Young repressed the vasopressin in male prairie voles. but is looked at sceptically in humans. With vasopressin repression. People still want to have sex when they are not fertile. “Some of our sexuality has evolved to stimulate that same oxytocin system to create female-male bonds”. The males will only copulate with one female and will fight other potential suitors for their mate. The normally loyal and protective prairie voles underwent a drastic change in behaviour. Prairie voles are monogamous mammals that normally mate for life. He then surveyed them with a variety of questions regarding their love and sex lives. Kissing. In a study done at Emory University. Our knowledge about the biochemistry of love is limited. unhappily married. Stimulating the breast is helpful in making the couple feel closer together because of the neuropeptides released (Young. and divorced (Henderson). Hasse Walum of the Karolinska Institute carried out a similarminded test with over two thousand human males. Results proved that men with more AVPR1A and more vasopressin are more likely to be in long-term successful relationships while those with less of the gene were more likely to be single. It only means that scientists have not quite figured it out yet. This motive evolved because the release of chemicals during and after sex helps them stay together longer and take better care of the offspring.

It is marketed in a spray container and called Liquid Trust which contains oxytocin which is good for procuring trust and getting ahead at jobs. Companies like Vero Labs sell spray-on products with oxytocin and pheromones to increase the subject’s trust vibe and sexual appeal. Most people understand love to be a result of getting along well and many happy hours spent creating memories. bondenhancing drugs involving oxytocin or the gene AVPR1A which has been proven to make men stay faithful could be injected. Understanding the chemicals involved in love could have many applications in society. Drug companies could research the release of these chemicals and study how to block or prevent their release. Working men and women will ask themselves if it is okay to take a pill to suppress love when they need to focus on work and not dating.human pheromones. Married couples will discuss taking a pill to recreate contented feelings rather than get a divorce. Scientists could bring research in the opposite direction and use drugs to decrease obsessive feelings of love and attachment. Vero Labs also sells Liquid Trust Enhanced which also involves the pheromones Androstenone and Androsterone which stimulate desire (Vero Labs). we could use this information to treat social disorders like autism and schizophrenia.They say love cannot be created artificially because . These future studies bring up several moral questions. A company called Vero Labs uses oxytocin and pheromones to recreate feelings of trust and lust. Since chemicals involved in sex have proven to increase the social understanding between partners. This could be marketed as an alternative to binging on chocolate ice cream after a bad break-up. They exploit the consumers by pretending to be further along the scientific road than they actually are. People in the dating scene will have to consider making themselves more attractive to the other sex by using spray pheromones. In couples that are having trouble staying faithful. The market is already prematurely exploiting pheromones calling them love potions.

It deals with the evolution of love.9 (2002): 46. New York: Henry Holt and Company.verolabs. Vero Labs sells a sprayon product with oxytocin and pheromones to increase the subject’s trust vibe and sexual appeal. This is not a reliable source and is not used as such in this pheromones.apa. 2011. She also talks about antidepressants and how these can alter the chemicals and make love more difficult to come by. February 2006. 33. Daily injection of love chemicals could hypothetically create the basis for “real” love. the chemicals behind feelings of love. Why We Love. <https:// www. This is a website promoting Vero Lab’s Liquid Trust Spray. 2005-2011. Web. Fisher. In Why We Love. Web. LLC. 2011. 16 Sep." Liquid Trust. New York. This talk has some of the same information as Fisher’s book. <www." American Psychological Association. I say that these memories and thoughts about your partner are not love. Trust in a bottle. Web. Fisher.aspx>. "Helen Fisher tells us why we Love and Cheat. 14 Sep 2011. The memories created are the natural way to get to the attachment stage." Ted Talks. and attachment. the biochemical reasons for love. romance. To this. Similar to how orgasm leads to oxytocin release. Fisher is a biological anthropologist. Etienne. <http://www. they are what leads to love. Helen. In Context.html>. Benson talks about McClintock’s studies of pheromones. and how it ties into the real world. It is used purely as an example of modern-day love potions. 29 Sep.asp?affl=cxg>.then you would have to bring in false memories. " Print. Helen. Vero Labs. The people involved might have to be constantly exposed to the chemical. She delves into the evolution of love.ted. Injecting someone with a chemical may have only a short-term effect. Fisher defines love and explains the different stages of lust. memories and fondness lead to release of euphoriainducing helen_fisher_tells_us_why_we_love u _cheat. and ways to enhance . 2004. Sources: Benson. "Fire up Some Valentine's Day Romance with Liquid Trust Enhanced.

" Time Magazine.html>. 2 SEP 2008: n. Gupta and Lynch discuss a study by Professor McClintock at the University of Chicago that investigated pheromones. Gupta.pdf>. "Biology: The Chemistry of Desire. Sanjay. 2011.html>. The monogamous brain [prairie voles]." Times. "The Chemistry of Love. 23 Sep. 2011. "Scientists uncover genetic variant which makes some males prone to infidelity. & Jordan. 12+>. Henderson. 104." Time Magazine. 26.1001841..00. 2011. et.. (2005): 458-468. G. article/0. Emily R.usc.timesonline.. Web.00.harvard." Evolution and Human Behavior. Sue Carter." Current Opinions Neruobiology. Tybur.fas. <http://wwwbcf.time. (2007). 2011. ~hbe-lab/acrobatfiles/profilewhr. "Men's Preferences for Women's Profile Wast-to-Hip ratio in Two Societies. Lemonick. Liman discusses the vomeronasal organ and its purpose for detecting pheromones. Liman.9171.hwwilsonweb. 23 Sep. 104 (August 1995) p. 19 JAN 2004: 1-7.time. B. Miller.. Mark. (1996): 487-490. 2011.993148-7. Oxytocin and vasopressin play a large role in the voles’ monogamous mating life. Web. and Jonathan Lynch. they failed to show a preference for their specific mate and did not defend the female from other suitors. This article talked about the different purposes of chemicals in the body as well as when the are released and the effects that they have. 18 FEB 2002: 1. This article explains a study done on prairie voles. This document delves into what turns men on physically.jhtml? recid=0bc05f7a67b1790ecb8297bf8be72d350dd39624f4e68f230646cb014d740 f958eec8f486cb17f73&fmt=HInsel.ece>. Henderson talks about a study regarding the influence of vasopressin in male fidelity. The male voles were injected with a vasopressin antagonist and while they still mated. Thomas R. and C. 23 Sep. and Dorian Reed. < <http:// www. Web. "The Monogamous 0. Web. "Pheromone Transduction in the Vomeronasal Organ. 23 Sep. F. Ovulatory cycle effects on tip earnings by lap-dancers: Economic evidence for human estrus? Evolution and Human . (1995): 12+. al. 29 Sep.pdf>." Natural History. <http://www. Insel. R. page. especially the waist-tohip ratio. Michael D. <http://www. Print. Coren Natural History v. <http://vnweb.

Behavior. Szakavitz’s article compares the chemical reactions involved in love and in addiction. 38-40>. Lap dancers’ tips increase when they are ovulating. L. Claus. J. Nature Neurosci. Love is the drug.jhtml? recid=0bc05f7a67b1790ecb8297bf8be72d350803089e60757eafa8e77473ec6f 6f332bd0369acd747392&fmt=HSzalavitz. This is an example of chemical reactions influencing subconscious actions. <http://ndt. & Wang. Oxford Journals. 176. Young. "MHC genes. 1048–1054 (2004) This publication deals with the monogamous prairie vole study in more scientific 7. 2011. Web. Z. body odours. 176 (November 23 2002) p. Claus Wedekind carries out a study that tests for pheromone combatibility between women and men’s t-shirts.hwwilsonweb. Maia.9 (2000): 1269-1271. 2011. M. 29 Sep. 16 Sep." Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation. 1269. Many explanations are made as to the exact chemical happenings in the brain of both rodents and humans. (2002): 38-40. Szalavitz. Lust increases as possibility of fertilization increases." New Scientist. "Love is the Drug. . and odour preferences.oxfordjournals.full>. and Dustin Penn. 15. New Scientist v. <http://vnweb. Wedekind.