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Falling in love? In the end it’s a chemical romance

February 15th, 2013 Posted in Opinion

By Jonathan Larson

LOGAN – Love is nothing more than a chemical response to ensure the survival of the human race, researchers say.

According to the National Retail Foundation, American spent $1.6 billion on candy for Valentine’s Day. While those millions of pounds of chocolate and sweets were being devoured Thursday, physiological responses were being triggered that make individuals feel in love.

“There are two things that come to mind when I think about human romance. One is pheromones,” said Andy Anderson, a Utah State University professor of human anatomy and physiology. “The other one I want to mention is oxytocin.”

Anderson said that pheromones, which are released in sweat, “have a great deal to do with how people choose individuals that they would like to have relationships with.”

Studies have shown that females are most attracted to males whose genetic makeup is the most different from their own. This is because pregnancies are more likely to come to term due to a suppression of the female immune system when she mates with a more genetically different individual, he said.

“Love is an incredibly complex process from a neurobiological perspective. It involves trust, pleasure and reward centers of the brain,” said Timothy Gilbertson, a Utah State professor of neurobiology. “There are many commonalities between feelings associated with love and other pleasurable activities such as eating and sexual behaviors.”

Gilbertson said that many chemicals in the body, like oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine, are linked to the cognitive aspects of romantic love and are the biological basis of our species survival.

“There is a strong correlation of oxytocin and human bonding – an increase in trust and a decrease in fear,” Anderson said.

In prairie voles, oxytocin leaks into the brains of the females during sexual activity, which is important because it helps to form a monogamous and life-long pair-bond with her partner. Anderson said that current theories maintain that this may also be common in others species, like humans, and effect emotional bonding.

“The concept of love certainly has a strong link to underlying physiology and these mechanisms in combination with the cognitive aspects of maternal, romantic and sexual love and its related attachment issues,” Gilbertson said. “Love pathways have a strong evolutionary basis since they help ensure the survival of individuals and their species. Of course, I am sure my wife wouldn’t like me reducing love to a normal, adaptive physiological process.


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