That crazy feeling
October 17, 2005 1:03 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone ever done a study on the neurological effects of the first week or two of a love relationship? There's got to be some sort of brain chemical released during that period... but what is it? Or, in broader terms: What's responsible for that heady, crazy, giggly feeling that both guys and girls get?
posted by SpecialK to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
See this article from The Economist: 'the brains of people deeply in love do not look like those of people experiencing strong emotions, but instead like those of people snorting coke. Love, in other words, uses the neural mechanisms that are activated during the process of addiction.'
posted by driveler at 1:11 PM on October 17, 2005

posted by mhuckaba at 1:28 PM on October 17, 2005

posted by matildaben at 2:29 PM on October 17, 2005

A General Theory of Love, by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, and Richard Lannon, is always recommended to me when I ask about these subjects. Haven't read it just yet, but my girlfriend almost wore out her copy.
posted by bobot at 2:32 PM on October 17, 2005

Driveler's comment is sort of like saying that sniffing a rose uses the same neural pathways that are normally activated in an epileptic seizure, and running a marathon can activate the same neural pathways that are ordinarily used by junkies getting high on heroin.

Technically correct, but most of us would put it the other way around.

The purple porpoise's last link was the study I was going to dig up; annoyingly, it pretty much says that early-stage romantic love looks like obsessive-compulsive disorder. Again: backwards.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:52 PM on October 17, 2005

Watching New Love as it Sears the Brain
posted by scazza at 2:53 PM on October 17, 2005

A caption from the May NYT article I linked, "the throes of new love [is] a drive, Dr. Fisher said, that "can be stronger than the will to live.""
posted by scazza at 2:56 PM on October 17, 2005

I would say there's a serotonin spike. I can't recall if there is something that love creates that speed also releases. You might want to check in on the chemical pathways ecstacy uses.
posted by Ken McE at 3:04 PM on October 17, 2005

Dopamine. Also I read in this book that there is a kind of inverse relationship between dopamine and serotonin, in that anything which increases levels of serotonin (like anti-depressant drugs functioning via SSRIs) will cause dopamine to drop. Taking anti-depressants will pour cold water on burgeoning feelings of love, it seems.

The book also describes some brain-scans done (using fMRI) on people who had recently fallen in love, recently been dumped, and so on. It's by the same Helen Fisher in scazza's llink.
posted by Ritchie at 3:20 PM on October 17, 2005

Based off of what I just learned (in psych class) about drug addiciton, part of the effect is anticipation. The happy brain chemicals get released when you first meet the person, and then subsequently every time you think about him/her your brain gets prepped up to start acting like it did before- without any real stimulus necessary.
posted by hopeless romantique at 6:23 PM on October 17, 2005

There was a study that got the Ig Nobel Prize for chemistry, the BBC has an article on it: Falling in love drives you mad
Psychiatrist Donatella Marazziti, of the University of Pisa, noticed how lovesick youngsters' one-track thoughts mirrored those of people with a mental illness called obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
posted by Frankieist at 6:37 PM on October 17, 2005

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