Monday, October 24, 2011

Addiction to Love?

The idea for this post was sparked by the one I myself call my significant other. She is volunteering in southern Argentina, and since we are unable to talk with any sort of regularity I find myself deep in love struck thought far too often then would be thought conducive to a graduating senior. I would like to briefly address the neuroscience behind the phenomenon of love.

Humans are one species of the about 3% of species on earth that is monogamous. But is what you feel when you would try to swim across an ocean to be with someone a phenomenon of human cognition, or does the urge and desire lie within the folds of our brains. Researchers argue the later. We are by all conventional means, addicted to love. By scanning the brains of individuals who claim to be madly in love, it has been shown that the active areas of our brains are not consistent with emotional areas of the brain, as predicted. Instead, the areas of the brain that are activated while ‘in love’, are those that are responsible for ‘gut feelings’ and the areas responsible for euphoria when under the influence of drugs such as cocaine.

We show extraordinary similarities in this fashion to voles; a small mouse like rodent ( … ). Prairie voles are monogamous, whereas montane voles are not, and these close relatives are more than 99% genetically alike. Researchers have literally induced love in prairie voles by injecting them with oxytocin and vasopressin hormones, but when tried on the montane voles it had no effect. In prairie voles and humans alike, there are receptors for these hormones in brain regions associated with reward and reinforcement, and no such receptors in the montane vole, and probably much of the other members of the animal kingdom.

But don’t fret, just because our brains facilitate love, doesn’t make the experience and in effect the love, any less authentic.

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”

- Carl Jung


Salmon, T. P., Gorenzel, W. P. (2010, June). Voles (Meadow Mice). Retrieved from

Fisher, H. (2004, February 4). I get a kick out of you. Retrieved from


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. In other words, when we speak of romantic love, we don't necessarily love the person so much as the way that person makes us feel. I have heard that it takes about two years for one to develop a tolerance to the love chemicals a significant other triggers, which means after about two years they don't make you feel as euphoric anymore.