Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Biology of love

Biological models of sex have a tendency to view love as a mammalian drive, much like need or thirst. Helen Fisher, a leading expert in the topic of love, divides the understanding of love into three partly-overlapping stages: lust, attraction, and attachment. Lust exposes people to others, romantic attraction gives confidence people to focus their energy on mating, and attachment has tolerating the partner extensive enough to rear a child into infancy.

Lust is the first passionate sexual longing that promotes mating, and has the increased release of chemicals like testosterone and estrogen. These causes seldom last more than a few weeks or months. Attraction is the more individualized and romantic want for a particular candidate for mating, which develops out of lust as commitment to an individual mate forms. Recent studies in neuroscience have indicated that as people fall in love, the brain constantly releases a convinced set of chemicals, together with pheromones, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which act similar to amphetamines, stimulating the brain's pleasure center and leading to side-effects like an increased heart rate, loss of appetite and sleep, and an extreme feeling of excitement. Research has indicated that this period usually lasts from one and a half to three years.

Since the lust and attraction stages are together considered impermanent, a third stage is needed to account for long-term relationships. Attachment is the bonding which encourages relationships that very last for many years, and even decades. Attachment is in general based on commitments like marriage and children, or on mutual friendship based on things like shared interests. It has been connected to higher levels of the chemicals oxytocin and vasopressin than temporary relationships have.

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