There are many ways to understand love. But neuroscience understands it in a very particular one. According to this science, you could have love on the brain!
Love is one of the most complex and extensive human aspects. That is why it has always been a topic of interest to science. Many sciences have studied love, and each one of them found a specific explanation, such as a biological or psychological one.
But with the boom of neuroscience, there is a new way to understand love. How? You may ask. Well, neuroscience sets love on the brain. So, yes, it must be love on the brain! Literally. Thanks to neuroscience, we found a biological and neurological way to understand love as more than a feeling. Let’s start by getting to know what this science is!
What is Neuroscience?
The term neuroscience tells us this study relates to neurology. We could say neuroscience is neural science. Thanks to the current technology, neuroscience mostly focuses on research because the human brain and nervous system are still primarily a vast enigma. Nowadays, neuroscience is conceived as a study.
Neuroscience is mostly an interdisciplinary scientific study of the entire nervous system and all of its aspects. The nervous system can be studied in different ways. It is a complex system, integrated by many structures, organs, and chemicals. The biggest of them all, at the center of most of the processes, is the brain.
But what does neuroscience do? Through its interdisciplinary approach, it studies how the cellular, cognitive, behavioral, biological, and functional aspects relate to one another. Neuroscience creates models that allow the understanding of the nervous system.
Understanding the Human Brain
The human brain is probably one of the most exciting parts of the body. It is almost like a control tower. All the functions we usually relate to the brain result from a union of efforts. The brain is a part of the nervous system and requires the rest of the structures to operate.
To understand the human brain, we must realize that it doesn’t work alone. The human brain is a system immersed in a more extensive one: the nervous system. And neuroscience defines the nervous system as a complex system with different branches. Those are:
- Physiology: this is the biological base of the nervous system, such as the structures, cells, chemicals, circuits, and processes that are natural and bring the nervous system to life. This is the neurological part, the human body itself, and how it works
- Cognition and behavior: this is the psychological part of the nervous system. It comprises the psychological functions that result from neural circuitry and chemical processes
- Computational neuroscience: thanks to neuroscience, we know we can understand the human brain based on computers. This is a good analogy as brains and computers are both complex macrosystems
- Affective neuroscience: thanks to neuroscience, we could give a new concept to emotions. Understanding that they are so much more than feelings or states. That they have a neurological base
Why Must Love Be On The Brain?
Remember affective neuroscience? This branch of neuroscience is the one that focuses on emotions and their neural bases. This area explains how basic emotions and feelings are organized in the brain. But it mostly focuses on understanding emotions as a result of emotional processing systems and having the brain as the place in which all that occurs.
Under this neuroscientific approach, there are neurological systems that handle raw emotions. But that generates “internally experienced affective stages,” and those are more complex feelings and emotions. That is why love is in different parts of the brain and related to various chemicals. Here are some facts, according to the Harvard Medical School’s professors Schwartz and Olds (2005):
- The chemicals behind love: neurotransmitters have a crucial role in the brain, but also in love. Love is biologically conceived. It is a cocktail of neurotransmitters and hormones. Most of the chemicals involved are neurotransmitters. One of them is oxytocin, which produces a sense of calmness and happiness. Another of these chemicals is dopamine, which rewards the body with a pleasant sensation
- The structures behind love: The emotional processing systems involve a series of brain structures. Some of them are the amygdala, hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, and the ventral tegmental area. Those structures also compose the brain’s reward system, which is the reason why we search for love and its relationship to dopamine. Likewise, the sexual part of love is related to the hypothalamus, which contains testosterone receiptors. The frontal cortex activity is decreased, which is explains why love is blind
This was just an easy and not so technical way to explain why love must be on the brain. The process and the reasons behind it are extensive and complex. This was a general way to start. If you want to know more, I invite you to stay tuned.