This article is taken from the monthly Sciences et Avenir – La Recherche n°905-906, dated July-August 2022.
The heart misses a beat, the bowels rotate, the breathing sounds tocsin. If love is felt throughout the body, it is because its orchestra is playing in the brain. There, the three phases of romantic love that form desire, love and then, after two or three years, attachment, involve almost identical chemical compounds. Called neurotransmitters, they are produced by neurons where they serve as messengers, such as adrenaline (stress), noradrenaline (alertness) or dopamine (motivation and reward). In the heart of the brain, in a small area called the hypothalamus, oxytocin and vasopressin, hormones and attachment neurotransmitters, are also produced.
The insula, a small area involved in emotions
During sexual desire, the importance of which decreases during the three phases of love, dopamine overcomes the tension of new intimacy, while noradrenaline increases the reception of signals sent by the desired person. It is also dopamine and associated brain structures – such as the nucleus accumbens that are activated by taking cocaine – that characterize the stage of passion. We will then be especially motivated to be close to the loved one.