What is the science of love?

Although love has long been a topic for philosophers and poets, there is an actual science to love. Being in love is affected by huge, measurable changes in the biochemistry of the brain. Science has identified three basic parts of love, each driven by a unique blend of brain chemicals.

Lust is governed by both estrogen and testosterone, in both men and women. Attraction is driven by adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin—the same chemicals that are released by exciting, novel experiences. Long-term attachment is governed by a very different set of hormones and brain chemicals—oxytocin and vasopressin, which encourage bonding. Interestingly, oxytocin is known as the cuddle hormone, and is the hormone that drives the bond between mother and child.  Each of these chemicals works in a specific part of the brain to influence lust, attraction and attachment.

Science has also shown that the process of falling in love can, in some cases, be hurried along. In a small scale study, subjects who talked deeply to a perfect stranger for 30 minutes, then stared into each other’s eyes for four minutes, felt a deep and lasting attachment. One pair even went on to marry!

Looking for verifiable information on the science of attraction and relationships? We’re a neuroscientist and a biological anthropologist eager to help you put the Anatomy of Love to work in your own life.