Chemistry of Love

By: Carlos Bryan M. Tecson

You may have encountered the term “chemistry” when talking about love. When someone says a couple has this sort of thing called “chemistry”, it means that they are perfect for each other. In love, yes there is chemistry; however, I’m referring to the actual chemistry.

Chemistry has been always involved in the bodily process of a human being, digestion, sleep, movement, almost everything involves chemistry. Attraction and love are fueled by actual chemistry.  Chemicals responsible for a human’s behavior in love are called neurochemicals; neurochemicals are produced largely in the brain and participates in neural activity. The brain passes them to other parts of your body, so one may say it all starts in the head.

The “first stage” of love is caused by combination of three neurochemicals: phenylethylamine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Later stages of relationships are caused by another two neurochemicals: oxytocin and serotonin. We will try to focus on the first three neurochemicals and I’ll try to discuss the other two later.

Have you ever experienced being so happy to the point it makes you feel kind of not hungry? Well, this neurochemical right here is the reason why. High amounts of norepinephrine will make you experience increased joy and may reduce the appetite. Norepinephrine, also known as Noradrenaline, causes stimulation for production of adrenaline. Adrenaline is a hormone, commonly known for making your heart beat faster and palms sweaty. Norepinephrine is released from a specific type of neurons called noradrenergic neurons. These neurons form a system that is called norepinephrine system.  When activated, norepinephrine will bind to the target cells and activate its adrenergic receptors. The main target of the norepinephrine system is to excite receptors in the areas of the spinal cord, thalamus, phypothalamus, etc.

Dopamine is a neurochemical that is released by the brain when we feel good. It is also said that it makes people more sociable and excited. Dopamine can affect the emotional responses, movement, ability to express pleasure, and also pain; since dopamine can affect the brain processes that control these responses. Dopamine is very similar to norepinephrine, structure-wise. It is also coordinated with norepinephrine. How? Remember that norepinephrine makes your body produce adrenaline, for this to happen, there should be a high amount of dopamine first. Dopamine receptors are linked with the pleasure system of the brain, so activating it with dopamine can make us feel better.

Ever heard that eating chocolate will make you feel better? Well, that is actually true. Chocolate contains this chemical called Phenylethylamine. Phenylethylamine (PEA) is very important in the chemistry of love. It acts as a releasing agent of norepinephrine and dopamine. Being attracted to another person makes you produce more PEA. Large amounts of PEA increases both physical and emotional energy, and releases more dopamine. The thing is, PEA’s role is slightly exaggerated, and by that I mean, it kind of affects the chemistry of love slightly. PEAS in chocolates are rapidly metabolized by different enzymes in the digestive system. So when eating chocolate, you feel good because of the taste, not because of the PEA. PEA is not directly involved in chemistry of love but helps in it. PEA increases the levels of dopamine and modulates the ignition of the norepinephrine system.

So there you go; the three neurochemicals in the brain that makes you love and feel loved. Be sure to consume enough proteins to make your dopamine level increase, I will try to discuss the latter two neurochemicals next time, so until then, bye!

References:
http://asdn.net/asdn/chemistry/chemistry_of_love.php

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