One of the deadly sins and not only: scientists explain the nature of lust
Scientists told how your brain reacts to different types of attraction.
Remember your feelings when you were in love for the last time – your palms are all sweaty, your eyes are twinkling, your heart is breaking out of your chest. For a long time, people thought the heart was behind it all, but as it turns out, the brain was the mastermind behind the feeling of love, writes The Varsity .
To understand this, scientists have proposed breaking down romantic love into categories: lust, attraction, and attachment. They believe that different chemicals control these categories in your brain. Testosterone, estrogen, dopamine, and norepinephrine control lust and attraction, while oxytocin, vasopressin, dopamine, and serotonin control feelings of love.
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But what is lust? It’s not just one of the seven deadly sins, is it? Lust is thought to be caused by sexual gratification and is often explained by the evolutionary need to reproduce.
Naturally, rewarding and pleasurable activities are vital to human experience and survival. Activities such as sex depend on the brain’s reward circuitry. The main chemical behind this circuitry is dopamine, the “pleasure” neurotransmitter, and some activity of endorphin, also known as the body’s natural morphine, which “spike” these pleasant sensations into our brains.
These chemicals trigger the desire for lust and keep you coming back to the person. Dopamine released from your hypothalamus – your brain’s hormonal center – creates feelings of euphoria and a “feel good” state. The entire reward system, including the hypothalamus, is also activated when a person takes opioids!
Now let’s talk about love physically. What does it look like? People in love often describe love as a feeling of security, safety, lightness and airiness. For example, wanting to be hugged and being hugged all the time. It feels familiar, natural and warm, but still exciting.
And it’s all thanks to a chemical called oxytocin. Oxytocin is often referred to as the cuddle hormone and the love chemical. This stimulates behaviors such as trust and social cooperation. It is a chemical that stimulates the bond between a mother and her child and even induces an orgasm. Even shaking hands or hugging a person can lead to the release of oxytocin in our brain.
It is a powerful hormone, and researchers have discovered that it is actually an enhancer hormone, meaning that any strong emotions we experience at a given moment are amplified. When it comes to feelings of love, it builds trust, a sense of security, and connection. Both oxytocin and vasopressin, the hormone that controls blood pressure, “deactivate” areas of the brain associated with negative emotions, social judgments, and evaluating other people’s intentions and emotions. Maybe that’s why people say “love makes you blind”.
Interestingly, the reward system also plays a role in love. Some brain regions involved in love are the medial insula, the anterior cingulate gyrus, the hippocampus, and in the subcortex, parts of the striatum and possibly also the nucleus accumbens, which together make up the reward system. This system provides that same feeling of euphoria, using dopamine signaling, which keeps you attached to your partner.