How to tell the difference between love and desire? Neuroscience has the answers

How to tell the difference between love and desire?  Neuroscience has the answers

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thanks to science

Love, desire, simple attraction … How to recognize these feelings and what happens to our brain when we fall in love?

Atlantico: How does our brain differentiate between loving intimacy and desire?

Aurora Malet: In this specific case, we need to recognize the pure emotional intimacy we feel for a loved one against a sexual desire. In neuroscience, desire is very complex to define and there is no consensus definition, strictly speaking. Each laboratory will operate with its own definition and within its framework. We define though in a general way, the desire to want to go to another in a sexual framework. Desire is equivalent to physical movement. There is a whole pattern of activation of hormones and neurotransmitters of desire that supports this prominent / in / in action / movement. As with a sexual response, specific physiological reactions appear such as questions of erection, clitoris or penis. It leads to regulations of the cardiovascular system. Testosterone, the hormone of sexual action, is available, with low doses of cortisol and little adrenaline. This will allow blood to flow to the penis.

It may also contain dopamine, which is a neuro-modulator, to stimulate memorization of events. It is never necessary to reduce all dopamine, because this neuromodulator is present in many behaviors, for example in the execution of motor actions in Parkinson’s, which is a problem of dopamine. Dopamine is also well described in the reward system. It’s something pleasurable, that makes us feel good and it’s an anticipation of the outcome of our sexual action that releases dopamine. This is equivalent to taking action for a sexual act.

Does this desire remain associated with reproductive function?

This is a good theoretical question. You have to understand that when we fall in love, we are playing with a “machine” that has evolved for reproduction. It cannot be completely separated from this aspect of the “machine”. We can add fantasies, control the “machine”, but reproductive function becomes central and these tools we have something.

How do you go from desire to love to feelings of love? Are they the same mechanisms?

For neuroscience, these are two different modules. The sexual side is known, there is an evolutionary function around reproductive function. Connecting is more specific because it is considered a function specific to humans, mistakenly thinking that animals are incapable of affection. Historically, attachment was first described in the mother-child bond and especially during breastfeeding. It leads to the secretion of oxytocin working in conjunction with vasopressin, these are the two chemical messengers of hormones that play a role in vasodilation and muscle relaxation. When we are good to someone, it is this system in our body that allows us to relax and this relaxation is encoded in our brain pleasantly.

Let us now analyze our emotions from below. Our body will react physiologically and our brain will build up after a feeling. As for dopamine, here too we cannot reduce the oxytocin/vasopressin coupling. We evolve that way. Other parts of the brain are positioned so that they can interpret emotions. So we have areas of the parietal cortex, of the cingulate cortex, and some areas of the temporal lobes called for situational analysis.

What causes desire or affection to arise?

The context. If we were a gazelle in the wild, there were tall grasses in the savannah that suddenly started to tremble, if it was a gazelle friend coming we would just tilt our heads and continue to graze, if it was a lion we are going to run. Context governs the stimuli we have. These are two different ways between sexual and affective contexts. The idea of ​​very connectedness, is not clear in neuroscience. The results are difficult to interpret because you may have a relationship with your child, your best friend or your spouse if you do not have the same sexual desires for these same people.

Should we understand love as a cocktail of different things? Same desire, companionship, attraction?

These are not questions of neuroscience, but of philosophy. Sometimes neuroscience and philosophy work together, but love is a relatively broad term. In science, we need to measure and without accuracy we cannot determine the idea. The question is to know what is in us as an emotion, how we feel as well as what we do with it.

The way we work in neuroscience is not to take big concepts like freedom, the desire to put people on an MRI to see what’s going on. The first question that arose was the meaning of the terms. Before working on desire and love, we need to define the terms, and then find ways to measure them.

Beware of reductionism. We cannot reduce complex traits to a hormone, brain region or a neurotransmitter. Impossible. This is something we will find in the press. There has to be something that measures science.

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