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The Science Of Love

Some of us need proof in order to believe in the existence of life’s elusive mysteries. Call us skeptics if you like, but aren’t we really just being rational human beings? Take this so-called “love” thingy for example. Why are we all wasting our money on chocolates and roses this Valentine’s Day for an intangible, irrational feeling? You can’t see it, or touch it—there is no scientific way to quantify this crazy little thing called love. Or is there? After the jump, some recent scientific findings about love, for those of us who prefer fact over fancy when it comes to our hearts’ desires. See if these findings make you a believer.

  • Love is like crack. Psychologist Arthur Aron did brain scans on people newly in love and found that these lovebirds exhibited a brain pattern that mimics that of a person who has just taken cocaine. That explains the wacky behaviors of new couples such as excessive energy, losing sleep, euphoric feelings and anxiety and obsession when they’re separated from their beloved. Sounds like we should not allow these people to operate any heavy machinery. [Los Angeles Times]
  • Hormones and love. The hormones oxytocin and vasopression are the human bonding hormones released during intimate moments like eye gazing, hugging, and sex. A study done in 2008 linked genetic vasopression levels to marital infidelity and a fear of commitment. Does this mean cheating can be genetic? [Los Angeles Times]
  • Love and smell. A new study done by Angeliki Theodoridou at the University of Bristol showed that we could smell the love coursing through someone’s veins. Getting a whiff of someone’s oxytocin can make him or her more attractive to us. See, love is the best perfume. [New Scientist]
  • Pheromones. Pheromones are those elusive, odorless chemicals given off in response to sexual stimulation or even romantic feelings. In animals these chemicals attract the opposite sex and inspire mating behavior. Although scientists are still figuring out the human pheromone system, a recent study found that women report that their partners are more loving when they’re ovulating, which indicates the existence of pheromones in our drive to mate. [Time]
  • Faces vs. bodies. Another new study confirmed that men and women approach long-term relationships in a similar way—both genders pay way more attention to gorgeous faces than hot bodies. So if you’re looking for a mate, check out the face first.
  • Love and sound. A psychology professor studied a tribe in Tanzania and found that the men with the deepest voices had the most children. Some researchers at the University of Albany recently conducted a related study in which they had a sample group of 149 volunteers listen to recordings of men’s and women’s voices and found that people with the most attractive voices often had the most biologically attractive physical features, such as broad shoulders in men and a low waist-to-hip ratio in women. Sounds good to me! [Time]
  • False Love. Looks like people who meet during some kind of crisis are much more inclined to believe they’ve found “the one” because of the hormones released. It’s a similar feeling to falling in love under the influence of drugs or alcohol. When hormones and natural opioids get activated in the brain, we start connecting them to the person sitting across the table from us. You may mistakenly attribute your good feeling to a person rather than your brain. So beware. [Time]
  • Long-term love. Researchers studied brain scans of couples who claimed to be madly in love after 20-plus years of marriage. It turns out that they exhibited the same brain patterns observed in dopamined-up new couples, only minus the feelings of anxiety. Based on preliminary research, long-lasting love is scientifically present for about 30 percent of married couples in the U.S. No wonder the divorce rate is so high. [Los Angeles Times]
  • Failed love. Why is it so hard to get over a breakup? When we get dumped we start to love the person who broke our heart more for a while because our brain’s “love pattern” is still active, according to the author of Why We Love. It takes time for the breakup to sink in. Here’s hoping that someone invents a pill to fix that. [MSN]
  • Good relationship, good health. If couples keep on being engaged in bonding behavior (ahem, sex!) with one another, the hormones just keep flowing. And this is great for our health! Happy marriages have long been scientifically linked to lower mortality rates, better immune function, and lower stress levels. Oxytocin and vasopressin have been shown to calm and even suppress pain in our brains. So, if for no other reason, fall in love for your health. [Los Angeles Times]
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