What happens in our brains when we fall in love? And when do we feel the most heart-stopping passion? Dr. Ignacio Morgado, professor of psychobiology and director of the Institute of Neurosciences at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, quite dominates the subject after more than 40 years dedicated to the study of brains and emotions. He knows him so far that he is in a position to ensure that it is not a way of speaking: love is blind. With his lecture "The Chemistry of Love", he was the first speaker of the scientific cycle "The Logic of Love", organized by CaixaForum Madrid. And judging by the crowded hall of events, we are certainly interested in the secrets of this essential feeling.
What happens to our brains when we fall in love?
That changes. All emotions and infatuation is an emotion, consist of the changes that occur in the same, that is, in the body and the brain. An emotion is always a kind of psychological revolution, which consists of the autonomic nervous system being triggered when we are in the presence of something that produces that emotion and activates the whole organism: the heart beats more often, hormones are secreted, changes respiratory rate, the electrical resistance of the skin, inhibits digestion... And the brain perceives all those changes, which is causing itself, in the form of feelings.
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So, as we change our bodies over the years, will our way of feeling love do so?
Of course. The passionate love of young people is not the same as love in maturity. In the passion, the brain secretes substances that are activators, elevate the mood, make you feel more energetic and more powerful, with an effusiveness that overflows all logic. And that particular substance, Phenylethylamine, is the one that determines the passion of the young lover; that "I'll always love you," that "I can't think of anything else." Also, it has been proven by neuroimaging that in the brains of passionate lovers the front, which is that of reasoning and logic, is deactivated completely to that popular claim that love is blind; it is, it's scientifically proven! Also during the infatuation decreases the segregation of Serotonin, which is a stabilizing brain substance of all functions, which explains why the lover feels in a world of which he finds it difficult to get out. But fortunately, that doesn't last, because there would be nobody to resist it.
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And what happens when we grow up when that love is "stabilized"?
When couples stabilize, love comes out of that phase of passion and enters another much more relaxed phase in which phenylethylamine is barely produced. Conversely, there is more Serotonin, brain functions are stabilized and many substances that produce relaxation, pleasure, tranquility, decreased anxiety are also released; such as encephalins and endorphins, which have generated a lot in situations of caresses, by physical contact. Mature love is much more bearable than young passionate. But in any case, all love is an emotion, a feeling, and like all of them, also love derives from physiological, chemical and neurochemical changes.
Since we talk about emotions, how have social media affected us when it comes to sharing and managing those emotions and feelings?
Social media is transforming the world and certainly, love as well. Today, when many people look for a partner, they take advantage of social media and specific apps, and that's working, even if there are cases of repeat failures. But let us never forget that social networks can never replace physical contact; the definition of a social network itself is still contradictory because there is nothing less social than being alone before a screen. Also, the relationship through the network cannot replace all elements of physical relationships, and in particular, the emotional part.
Are we talking about emotional communication?
That is, the emotion between people is very important when it comes to communicating. And that emotional communication is expressed in a way that is lost through digital: body expression, tone of voice, the immediacy of facial response... The message is often in emotion, not what is said. The fact that the boss puts on when you're late tells you one thing and his "Good morning" tells you another. But the answer you care about is the first. Emotional communication has two very important characteristics, which are speed and accuracy. The angry face leaves no room for doubt, and also arises as an automatic response to what has just provoked it. And in love, this is very important, something that is lost through social networks or WhatsApp and causes a lot of problems.
Why do we like talking about sex so much?
Because nature invites us to it. In nature, there are two very important forces that we never get off our backs: that of survival and reproduction. The forces of survival were already established by Charles Darwin with the principle of natural selection. And he realized that other forces incited not only to survive but also to reproduce. Sex exists because it is the way that nature and evolution have established so that our genes never cease to replicate. People disappear, but most, before doing so, have passed on their genes to their descendants. Natural evolution and sexual evolution, which are in the background complements, have the same objective: the immortality of genes, the perpetuation of the species.
They say, having sex is healthy. Is it love, too?
Yes, of course. Falling in love is one of the best things that can happen to us in life. The bastard who doesn't have many kinds of love. I'm not just talking about love as a couple, but your family, friends, etc. Love makes you live well, makes you much more at ease than if you don't have those feelings. The problem is when love is so passionate that it leads to contradictions. But being healthy, love makes life live life more intensely, and this is positive.
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In all your years of specialization in the field, what has been the discovery or conclusion that has excited you the most?
I've been living in my brain for 40 years, since I was a student, researching the brain. When I started, I thought what everyone, that we are an organism that has a brain like it has a heart, some kidneys, legs, a liver... But over time, that idea has turned around, and now what I think is that we are a brain that has hands, a heart, a kidney... I mean, the brain has gone from being one more organ in my body to be the center of the body. We are our brain and the mind that that brain creates. Brain research has been many since those of our compatriots and father of neuroscience, Santiago Ramón y Cajal; even before, the Greeks already sensed that the brain is the organ that gives meaning to our life, which makes us feel everything we feel, including love. Without a brain, there would be no love, and without love or emotions, life would be much more boring: they are the salt of life. This was my great discovery.
I love the way to be better?
I think so, for everything, that's impossible to discuss. We are all much happier if it is love that prevails in our society, not hatred, violence or evil. Love is what always leads us in the best path, the greatest engineered to make us change our behavior, to do what is best for ourselves and others. Hate is like medicine that if you take it waiting for the hated one to die, it's you who dies. This is why we have to live, love, and live it without worrying too much about whether it's chemistry or physics or something. A gentleman once told me, "Hey, I've been told that love is a dopamine discharge into the brain." And I said, "Do you remember how you felt the first time you were in love? Well, that's love!"
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