Apparently, when we”re talking about love, it”s all about the dopamine. A recent study conducted by UCLA came to the conclusion that touch and even the very sight of a loved one can ease the sensation of pain to a large extent. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist and researcher in the field who has been studying and writing books on the topic of human love for years, puts it this way, “The brain is built to respond. We are an animal that is built to love.”
The response can be traced to the ventral tegmental area of the brain, which deals with rewards and cravings. Something as seemingly insignificant as the sight of someone you love floods the region with the chemical dopamine. Dopamine is the body”s pleasure response, and Fisher claims her research and that of others shows that this “love” drug can be more powerful than Tylenol.
The interesting part of the UCLA study is that this dopamine release manifests itself within the context of three specific human conditions: when you”ve just fallen in love; recently been rejected in love; or are involved in a long term marriage or relationship.
The testing went like this. Women were tested by having one hand subjected to an unpleasant burning sensation under four different scenarios: holding the hand of a loved one; holding the hand of a stranger; holding an inanimate object; looking at a picture of a loved one. The first finding was that the reported pain level was much less while holding the hand of a loved one or even looking at a picture of a loved one, than when holding a stranger”s hand or an inanimate object. The burning sensation generated for the purpose of the study was always the same, leading researcher”s to conclude the brain places a sort of anesthetic over pain when love is involved, kind of a neurotic love.
So let no one tell you that there isn”t a love drug because now we know that there most certainly is. In the upcoming book “For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage”Tara Parker-Pope examines the question of whether or not science can used to help people make better love decisions. We”ll end by saying, “We fervently hope not!”
The Swank Life Team
Flickr / Stylish Jo