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SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 12, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Oscar Wilde observed that love is even more mysterious than death. But, can’t love be distilled down to chemical processes in the brain? That question, and others about love, were posed to Dr. Michael Merzenich – recipient of the Kavli Prize in Neuroscience, Professor Emeritus at University of California San Francisco, and Chief Scientific Officer of Posit Science, maker of BrainHQ online brain exercises and assessments.
Dr. Merzenich sat down on the cusp of the Valentine’s Day for an interview about the brain processes associated with love, and how to prepare the brain for falling in love.
“When you are falling in love a kind of chemical bomb goes off in the brain,” Dr. Merzenich explained. “There’s a chemical storm of dopamine and noradrenaline that makes you feel excited and warm all over.”
Dopamine is a brain chemical associated with reward. It’s released when you receive rewards or feel rewarded by giving to others. Noradrenaline is associated with excitement and novelty. It makes you feel brighter and more alive.
“There is almost no time in your life when you feel more alive and rewarded than when you are falling in love,” Dr. Merzenich noted.
As a relationship deepens, the brain begins to anticipate the feeling of being with the beloved.
“You actually begin to feel warm before the moment of connection,” Dr. Merzenich observed. “That contributes to you craving it. It becomes an addiction.”
As the relationship matures, it becomes much more. It becomes an attachment, which arises from the release of oxytocin, associated with the experience of bonding, as well as the brain’s method of incorporating the other into the self.
“The consequence of that is that your brain — through it plasticity — grows that person that you love into yourself,” Dr. Merzenich said. “That person becomes a part of you. Ultimately, you are bonded, you are wedded in your brain — just as you may be wedded in life.”
To prepare your brain for love, you want to exercise the relevant brain machinery. Given his research in building plasticity-based brain exercises, Dr. Merzenich felt obliged to note that BrainHQ exercises work that machinery heavily.
“However, you can also exercise this machinery heavily in everyday life — by being a positive, loving, generous person and living a life full of vitality, full of interesting and surprising things, so that when love comes your way, you’ll be fully ready to respond to it.”
“Of course,” he concluded, “you can also just wait to be struck through the heart by that arrow from Cupid — somewhere out there — waiting to surprise you. Because that can happen too. Be ready for the surprise. And, for love.”
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