Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Romantic Brain

Dissecting Love

How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?
- Albert Einstein
I have long been fascinated by the mechanisms of romantic love. Why does my romance feel so unique and intense, only to realize that the same feelings have been documented world-wide for as long as writing has existed?

Some may say that dissecting love into what it really is - a chemical process in the brain and in the body - is unromantic, cold-hearted, sacrilegious. But I think it simply adds to the wonder: Earth remains awe-inspiring even after we learn that it is but one of a myriad planets in existence; water does not stop quenching our thirst because we know that it is but an amalgamation of tiny particles strewn together not unlike lego pieces; love is no less beautiful with the discovery that it is but a serious of reaction firing in our cells.

Earth is even more awe-inspiring when seen from the moon, despite - or because of - how
the view shows you that Earth is not the center of the universe

Is passionate romantic love really a uniquely human feature? I have learned to be wary of anything being described as "uniquely human." The more I learn, the more it seems as though we are nothing special compared to the rest of the universe. And yes, passionate love exists in other species, if you define passionate love as an uncontrollable, burning desire to be with a particular someone, including sexual desire but more the need to be together as companions.

Prairie voles develop lifelong bonds between mates

Of course, romantic passion observed in animals vary in how long it lasts, from mere seconds in rats, two weeks in foxes, and a lifetime in wolves. But after all, so does love between people, as Violetta puts it as she sings in Verdi's opera La Traviata: "Let's live for pleasure alone, since love, like flowers, swiftly fades."

A Romantic Brain

This series of posts will cover how romance looks in the brain, and how it alters the body and mind of those affected. Unlinked titles are yet to be written:

The romantic instinct

... talks about the different hormones involved with romance
as a basic human instinct, not unlike drives such as hunger, thirst, and lust.

Manipulating love

... discusses various ways love is and can be manipulated - how various behaviors,
circumstances, and substances can lead to romance or heartbreak.

Love as a maleable emotion

... brings up the nurture aspect of love - the emotional aspect of love
that may play a large role in humans but not in animals.

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