Love Actually: It’s a Chemical Reaction

2-for-1 Admission to BODY WORLDS: PULSE on Valentine’s Weekend
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It’s no surprise that falling in love makes us feel a jumble of emotions and strange physical effects. According to researchers, falling in love releases a deluge of chemicals that make us swoon, flush, and sweat, that make our hearts race and our brains turn obsessional.

The hormones released in the body when one falls in love cause a virtual flood. The pleasure center of the brain lights up like the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center because of dopamine, which is responsible for the feelings of ecstasy, boundless energy, restlessness, insomnia, and obsession with the beloved. “The person who is love-struck is in a similar state to that of an addict on opiates,” said Dr. Angelina Whalley, designer of BODY WORLDS: PULSE – The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies.

Adrenaline and norepinephrine—the stress hormones which are fundamental during flight from danger and catastrophe—are also released when one falls in love. “They make you more focused, alert, awake, and responsive to the environment, which is probably why a person in love finds the world more beautiful,” she said.

Increased blood flow occurs in the pleasure center of the brain, the domain of obsessive-compulsive disorders and addictions. Serotonin levels of people in love are lower than normal—similar to those diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorders. “We become obsessional and can think only of the object of our affection,” Whalley says. During the advanced stages of love, Whalley says, a different set of hormones come into play. “For a relationship to endure beyond the attraction phase, there is a need for chemicals that bond us to our mates,” she said. This is where hormones and endorphins that create a sense of well-being and stability come into play. Vasopressin plays a role in regulating social and sexual behavior and bonding. Oxycontin is released in humans during orgasm, and in mothers during birth and while breastfeeding. Called the “Love Hormone,” Oxycontin triggers bonding between lovers, and between parents and children.

“The human body is an unceasing source of wonder,” said Whalley. “It is so keenly intelligent in its form and function even affecting this most emotional and fundamental of human experiences.” 

As a special Valentine’s Promotion visitors can redeem a 2-for-1 discount at the Discovery Times Square box office, by printing the coupon at discoverytsx.com/vdaybodyworlds or showing it on their mobile device at the box office. Offer is valid for general admission tickets on Valentine’s weekend from February 14 to 16, 2014.