what is the biological explanation of love?

10 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favourite answer

    There are a lot of chemicals racing around your brain and body when you're in love. Researchers are gradually learning more and more about the roles they play both when we are falling in love and when we're in long-term relationships. Of course, estrogen and testosterone play a role in the sex drive area (see How Sex Works). Without them, we might never venture into the "real love" arena.

    That initial giddiness that comes when we're first falling in love includes a racing heart, flushed skin and sweaty palms. Researchers say this is due to the dopamine, norepinephrine and phenylethylamine we're releasing. Dopamine is thought to be the "pleasure chemical," producing a feeling of bliss. Norepinephrine is similar to adrenaline and produces the racing heart and excitement. According to Helen Fisher, anthropologist and well-known love researcher from Rutgers University, together these two chemicals produce elation, intense energy, sleeplessness, craving, loss of appetite and focused attention. She also says, "The human body releases the cocktail of love rapture only when certain conditions are met and ... men more readily produce it than women, because of their more visual nature."

    Researchers are using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to watch people's brains when they look at a photograph of their object of affection. According to Helen Fisher, a well-known love researcher and an anthropologist at Rutgers University, what they see in those scans during that "crazed, can't-think-of-anything-but stage of romance" -- the attraction stage -- is the biological drive to focus on one person. The scans showed increased blood flow in areas of the brain with high concentrations of receptors for dopamine -- associated with states of euphoria, craving and addiction. High levels of dopamine are also associated with norepinephrine, which heightens attention, short-term memory, hyperactivity, sleeplessness and goal-oriented behavior. In other words, couples in this stage of love focus intently on the relationship and often on little else.

    Another possible explanation for the intense focus and idealizing view that occurs in the attraction stage comes from researchers at University College London. They discovered that people in love have lower levels of serotonin and also that neural circuits associated with the way we assess others are suppressed. These lower serotonin levels are the same as those found in people with obsessive-compulsive disorders, possibly explaining why those in love "obsess" about their partner.

    In romantic love, when two people have sex, oxytocin is released, which helps bond the relationship. According to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, the hormone oxytocin has been shown to be "associated with the ability to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships and healthy psychological boundaries with other people." When it is released during orgasm, it begins creating an emotional bond -- the more sex, the greater the bond. Oxytocin is also associated with mother/infant bonding, uterine contractions during labor in childbirth and the "let down" reflex necessary for breastfeeding.

    Vasopressin, an antidiuretic hormone, is another chemical that has been associated with the formation of long-term, monogamous relationships (see "Are We Alone in Love?"). Dr. Fisher believes that oxytocin and vasopressin interfere with the dopamine and norepinephrine pathways, which might explain why passionate love fades as attachment grows.

    Endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, also play a key role in long-term relationships. They produce a general sense of well-being, including feeling soothed, peaceful and secure. Like dopamine and norepinephrine, endorphins are released during sex; they are also released during physical contact, exercise and other activities. According to Michel Odent of London's Primal Health Research Center, endorphins induce a "drug-like dependency."

    What about when that euphoric feeling is gone? According to Ted Huston at the University of Texas, the speed at which courtship progresses often determines the ultimate success of the relationship. What they found was that the longer the courtship, the stronger the long-term relationship.

    The feelings of passionate love, however, do lose their strength over time. Studies have shown that passionate love fades quickly and is nearly gone after two or three years. The chemicals responsible for "that lovin' feeling" (adrenaline, dopamine, norepinephrine, phenylethylamine, etc.) dwindle. Suddenly your lover has faults. Why has he or she changed, you may wonder. Actually, your partner probably hasn't changed at all; it's just that you're now able to see him or her rationally, rather than through the blinding hormones of infatuation and passionate love. At this stage, the relationship is either strong enough to endure, or the relationship ends.

    If the relationship can advance, then other chemicals kick in. Endorphins, for example, are still providing a sense of well-being and security. Additionally, oxytocin is still released when you're having sex, producing feelings of satisfaction and attachment. Vasopressin also continues to play a role in attachment.

    Only three percent of mammals (aside from the human species) form "family" relationships like we do. The prairie vole is one such animal. This vole mates for life and prefers spending time with its mate over spending time with any other voles. Voles even go to the extreme of avoiding voles of the opposite sex.

    When they have offspring, the couple works together to care for them. They spend hours grooming each other and just hanging out together. Studies have been done to try to determine the chemical makeup that might explain why the prairie vole forms this lifelong, monogamous relationship when its very close relative, the montane vole, does not.

    According to studies by Larry Young, a social attachment researcher at Emory University, what happens is that when the prairie vole mates, like humans, the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin are released. Because the prairie vole has the needed receptors in its brain for these hormones in the regions responsible for reward and reinforcement, it forms a bond with its mate. That bond is for that particular vole based on its smell -- sort of like an imprint. As further reinforcement, dopamine is also released in the brain's reward center when they have sex, making the experience enjoyable and ensuring that they want to do it again. And because of the oxytocin and vasopressin, they want to have sex with the same vole.

    Because the montane vole does not have receptors for oxytocin or vasopressin in its brain, those chemicals have no effect, and they continue with their one-night stands. Other than those receptors, the two vole species are almost entirely the same in their physical makeup.

    For more on the science of love visit:


  • 4 years ago


    Source(s): Delicious Paleo Recipe Cookbook : http://PaleoCookbook.raiwi.com/?SWTM
  • 1 decade ago

    A true "biological" explaination is a neuro-chemical mechanism to maintain a species (ensure reproduction) and maximize the survival of the offspring (a "couple" has a greater chance of successfully raising a child to adulthood, i.e., reproductive age, than a single individual). Also, there is biological evidence that being a part of a couple has health benefits.

    Source(s): for a great article on this topic, see Feb 2006 National Geographic Magazine, http://www7.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0602/featur...
  • 1 decade ago

    Love is a profound feeling of tender affection for or intense attraction to another. It is considered a deep, ineffable feeling shared in passionate or intimate interpersonal relationships. However, in different contexts, the word love has a variety of related but distinct meanings: in addition to romantic love, which is characterized by a mix of emotional and sexual desire, other forms include platonic love, religious love, familial love, and the more casual application of the term to anyone or anything that one considers strongly pleasurable, enjoyable, or desirable, including activities and foods. This diverse range of meanings in a single word is commonly contrasted with the plurality of Greek words for love, reflecting the word's versatility and complexity.

  • What do you think of the answers? You can sign in to give your opinion on the answer.
  • 4 years ago

    Biological Explanation Definition

  • 1 decade ago

    For many species, it is more effective for two parents to raise offspring. If those two parents actually work together, so much the better. The two parents, working together and helping each other to stay alive and healthy makes a more efficient team to produce offspring who will survive and pass on their genes.

  • 1 decade ago

    biological explanation of love is sexual arousement between two peoples.

  • Anonymous
    4 years ago

    when you love someone, endorphins are pouring into your brain giving you this sense of wow i LOVE HIM. if your a girl and eat chocolate its a similar endorphin rush, but less. go have some chocolate

  • 1 decade ago


    The ultimate fear of the cultural nationalists is that modernisation will undermine traditional mores concerning marriage and the family. The resistance to the purported cultural pollution coming over the satellite channels and the shenanigans concerning the Miss World contest reflect this fear. But is it justified?

    Since Marx and Engels there has been the view that with modernisation the traditional extended family identified with pre-industrial societies is doomed. Modern families will become more and more like western families: with love marriages, nuclear families and a cold-hearted attitude to the old.

    There are others who maintain that as the western style of family seems to go back at least to the Middle Ages in northern Europe. This family pattern was not merely the consequence but the cause of the western industrial revolution.

    Research by the Cambridge anthropologist, Jack Goody, (The Oriental, the Ancient and the Primitive) cast serious doubts on both these positions.

    First, as historical evidence shows, the western family revolution predated the industrial revolution. Clearly, the latter could not have caused the former. Second, as Goody shows, the purported advantages of the western system, leading to a greater control of fertility, were to be found in many other Eurasian family systems which, however, did not deliver industrial revolutions.

    But that the western Christian world, particularly in its north-western outpost, deviated from what had been the traditional family pattern in Eurasia from about the late 6th century seems undeniable. The major difference was that in the West, the Church came to support the independence of the young: in choosing partners, setting up households and entering into contractual rather than affective relationships with the old. They promoted love marriages. But why did the Church promote love marriages?

    It has been thought that romantic love, far from being a universal emotion, was a western social construct of the age of chivalry in the Middle Ages. Recent anthropological and psychological research, however, confirms that this erroneous-romantic love is a universal emotion. (Jankowiak (ed): Romantic Passion; and Fisher: Anatomy of Love) Moreover, it has a biological basis.

    Neuro-psychologists have shown that it is associated with increased levels of phenylethylamine, an amphetamine-related compound. Interestingly, the same biochemicals are also to be found in other animal species like birds. However, it appears that this emotion is ephemeral.

    After a period of attachment, the brain's receptor sites for the essential neuro-chemicals become desensitised or overloaded and the infatuation ends, setting up both the body and brain for separation i divorce. This period of infatuation has been shown to last for about three years. A cross-cultural study of divorce patterns in 62 societies between 1947-1989 found that divorces tend to occur around the fourth year of marriage.

    A universal emotion with a biological basis calls for an explanation. Socio-biologists maintain that in the primordial environment, it was vital for males and females to be attracted to each other to have sex and reproduce and also for the males to be attached enough to the females to look after their young until they were old enough to move into a peer group and be looked after by hunting-gathering band.

    The traditional period between successive human births is four years -- which is also the modal period for those marriages which end in divorce today. Darwin strikes again! The biochemistry of love, it seems, evolved as an "inclusive fitness" strategy of our species.

    The capacity to love may be universal but its public expression is culturally controlled. Given its relatively rapid decay with settled agriculture, the evolved instinct for mates to stay together for about four years and then move on to new partners to conceive and rear new young would have been dysfunctional.

    Settled agriculture requires settled households. Not surprisingly, most agrarian civilisations sought to curb the explosive primordial emotion which would have destroyed their way of making a living. They have used cultural constraints to curb this dangerous hominid tendency by relying on arranged marriages, infant betrothal and the like, restricting romantic passion to relationships outside marriage.

    The West stands alone in using this dangerous biological universal emotion as the bastion of its marriages as reflected in the popular song: "Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage".

    The reason for this western exceptionalism goes back to the earliest period of the Christian Church, which from its inception had grown as a temporal power through gifts and donations - particularly from rich widows. So much so, that in July 370 the Emperor Valentinian addressed a ruling to the Pope that male clerics and unmarried ascetics should not hang around the houses of women and widows and try to worm themselves and their churches into their bequests at the expense of the women's families and blood relations.

    The Church was thus from the beginning in the race for inheritances. The early Church's extolling of virginity and preventing second marriages helped it in creating more single women who would leave bequests to it.

    This process of inhibiting a family from retaining its property and promoting its alienation accelerated with the answers that Pope Gregory I gave to some questions. Four of these nine questions concerned sex and marriage. Gregory's answers overturned the traditional Mediterranean and Middle Eastern patterns of legal and customary practices in the domestic domain.

    The traditional system was concerned with the provision of an heir to inherit family property and allowed marriage to close kin, marriages to close affines or widows of close kin, the transfer of children by adoption, and finally concubinage.

    Gregory amazingly banned all four practices. Thus, for instance, adoption of children was not allowed in England till the 19th century. There was no basis for these injunctions in Scripture, Roman law or the existing customs in the areas that were Christianised.

    This Papal family revolution made the Church unbelievably rich. Demographers have estimated that the net effect of the prohibitions on traditional methods to deal with childlessness was to leave 40 per cent of families with no immediate male heirs. The Church became the chief beneficiary of the resulting bequests.

    But the Church also had to find a way to prevent the social chaos which would have ensued if the romantic passion its greed had unleashed as the basis for marriage had been allowed to run its course in a settled agrarian civilisation. First, it separated love and sex, and then created a fierce guilt culture based on Original Sin.

    Its pervasive teaching against sex and the associated guilt it engendered provided the necessary antidote to the "animal passions" that would otherwise have been unleashed by the Church's self-interest in overthrowing of the traditional Eurasian system of marriage.

    But once the Christian God died with the scientific and Darwinian revolutions, these restraints were finally removed. The family became sick in the West, as the western humanoids reverted to the "family" practices of their hunter-gatherer ancestors.

    However, there is no reason whatsoever for the rest of the world to follow this peculiar and particular western trajectory. It is not modernisation but the unintended consequences of Pope Gregory I's family revolution which have led to the death in the West of the Eurasian family values.

  • 1 decade ago

    If scientists could answer this Q, they would have been great lovers!!

Still have questions? Get answers by asking now.