Love in the Brain
Does brain equal behavior? Some people have argued that they have difficulty saying it does because they find it hard to believe that our individual, tangible brain controls emotions that many consider to be intangible, such as being in love. This paper will discuss the role that the brain actually plays in love- why we are attracted to certain people, why we feel the way we do when we are around them, and whether or not this is enough to say that in the case of love, brain does equal behavior.
The first stage of romantic love begins with attraction. Whether you have been best friends for a long time or you just met the person, you begin your romantic relationship when there is that feeling of attraction. But why are we attracted to some people and not to others? Some research and experimentation suggests that pheromones play a role in attraction ((1), (2), (3), (4)). Although the existence of pheromones in humans and the method by which individuals detect them is still under debate and requires further research, a study by Stern and McClintock on pheromones in women's underarm secretion gives the most solid evidence for the existence of human pheromones ((5)). It has been hypothesized that the brain detects these pheromones through an organ known as the vomeronasal organ (VNO), by receptors, or by the terminal nerve in the nostrils ((5)). Despite the fact that pheromones and how they are detected in humans is controversial, it has been suggested that selectivity for certain pheromones might explain why we are only attracted to certain people ((6)).
Research agrees, however, that whether or not pheromones exist, they are not the only reason we are attracted to an individual. Other factors such as social and environmental influences, genetic information, and past experience contribute to who we are and who we find attractive physically and emotionally ((5), (7)). In addition, an experiment by McClintock showed that women were attracted to the smell of a man who was genetically similar, but not too similar, to their fathers ((1)). Therefore, our genetic information might play a role in whether or not someone is desirable in order to avoid inbreeding or, on the other end of the spectrum, to avoid the loss of desirable gene combinations. Inevitably, however, it is our brain that processes another individual's appearance, lifestyle, how they relate to past individuals we have met, and, possibly, their pheromones. Then, based on this information, we decide, within our brain, whether or not this person is worth getting to know.
Almost immediately thereafter, it is uncontroversial that when someone experiences an attraction for someone else, their brain triggers the release of certain chemicals. These adrenaline-like chemicals include phenylethylamine (PEA) which speeds up the flow of information between nerve cells, dopamine, and norepinephrine (both of which are similar to amphetamines). Dopamine...