Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Chemistry of Love

[ Photo by Marius E. Hauge of Norway]
For years, scientists have attempted to understand the mechanisms that control this emotion we call "Love." Some of the collective data have shown the same chemical (Dopamine) involved in drug addictions to nicotine and cocaine also share the same neuro responses to falling in love.... hence the term "addicted to love."

Recently, the hormone Oxytocin is believed to not only play a role in uterine contractions in child labor and breast feeding, but also plays a large part in the bonding process between adults. During sexual intimacy, both males and females experience an increase of this hormone (as well as Dopamine and Norepinephrine), and in combination with another hormone called Vasopressin, increases the long term emotional attachment between partners.

You may be wondering about the neurotransmitter serotonin - an important CNS modulator of mood, emotion, sleep and appetite. Interestingly, in studies comparing patients diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and couples who had just fallen in love, both groups displayed a significant drop in activity of a serotonin transporter protein in their blood platelets. In other words, the next time someone tells you he/she is crazy about you, you better believe it.

So, where does chocolate play in all of this? Theobroma Cacao, also known as the cacao tree (named by Swedish naturalist, Carl Linnaeus), is used to make chocolate. Chocolate contains Phenylethylamine (PEA). PEA also helps to release Dopamine in the so called "mesolimbic pleasure-centres" of the brain. In studies, PEA has shown to allleviate depression in some depressed patients.

The long and short of it? Share some chocolates, cigarettes and cocaine while in bed with your mate! OK, perhaps not, but there's some cool stuff below ...
Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs,
Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers' eyes,
Being vexed, a sea nourished with lovers' tears.
What is it else? A madness most discreet,
A choking gall and a preserving sweet.
- William Shakespeare "Romeo and Juliet"


Shorty said...

*hehehe* Don't like chocolate, don't believe in love. Don't smoke or snort....Where does that leave me? :D

Liz said...

Uhm...I just brought home some handmade Belgian chocolate... :-)