Your Brain in Love

It’s that time of year again; it doesn’t matter where you’re shopping, whether it be Walmart or your local arts and crafts store, everywhere you look there is some variation of red and pink hearts, boxes of chocolate, and giant stuffed animals that say “Be Mine.” For some people, Valentine’s Day is a highly anticipated date night, and for others it’s a dreaded day that they’d prefer to spend hiding under a rock. Whether your love life is going swimmingly or it’s completely in shambles, there’s probably a small part of you that wonders: what happens to your brain to make you fall in love?

Dawn Maslar M.S., author of the book Men Chase, Women Choose: The Neuroscience of Meeting, Dating, Losing Your Mind, and Finding True Love gave a TEDx presentation in Boca Raton, Florida. She explains the science of love and gives an inside look into what happens within the brain. The answer has to do with the alteration of brain chemicals. These brain chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, are what cause people to fall in love and — spoiler alert — the chemicals are different in men and women!

Initially, men and women begin the process of  falling in love in a very similar way. At the beginning stages of a relationship, when two people start to like each other, the neurotransmitter that plays the biggest role is dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter well known for its role in reward-motivated behavior. In the neuroscience world, dopamine has been strongly associated with addictive behavior. It has been studied in drug related research, as well as in research pertaining to gambling. As Maslar explains, the reason dopamine plays a role in addiction is because it is the neurotransmitter responsible for the feeling of wanting a reward. When we meet someone that we like, we begin to feel excited, and we begin to crave their attention. This wanting feeling is the dopamine flooding our brains and the reward we are craving is the attention from the other person.     

Once the initial liking phase is over and both parties are heading towards a deeper level of intimacy, the neurotransmitters responsible for the stage begins to differ between the sexes. The hormone that is responsible for this variation between men and women is testosterone. Testosterone is a hormone found in the bodies of both men and women; however, the levels of testosterone are much higher in men. Maslar explains that the high levels of testosterone in males prevent the neurotransmitter oxytocin from binding to receptors in the male brain. Oxytocin is known as the bonding and trust hormone. In women, this is the hormone that causes them to fall in love with their partner. However, because testosterone levels are so high in men, it blocks oxytocin’s ability to bind with the receptor. When a neurotransmitter cannot bind to a receptor it blocks the neurotransmitter’s ability to affect the brain. Therefore, testosterone is the reason men fall in love differently.

To get clarification on how men fall in love, Maslar turns to an animal study done on prairie voles. In the study, prairie voles were chosen to research love because they are monogamous creatures that breed with the same partner their entire lives. The researchers manipulated neurotransmitters within the brain of the voles and focused on a neurotransmitter chemically similar to oxytocin, called vasopressin. When researchers blocked vasopressin from binding to the receptor, they found that the male prairie vole lost interest in the female vole. This meant that blocking vasopressin made male voles fall out of love.

Although vasopressin could be the same neurotransmitter that causes male humans to fall in love, each animal is different and just because vasopressin causes voles to fall in love, it doesn’t mean it’s the case in humans. Maslar wrote to a head of research at Florida University who confirmed the vole study relates to the human brain, but she begins to wonder if there is more to the story when Tiffany Love from the University of Michigan, claims romantic love in voles in dissimilar to romantic love in humans. Maslar then turns to research conducted by Harvard University.

Harvard University collected testosterone levels in men that were single, in committed relationships and married. The researchers found that testosterone levels were significantly higher in men that were single than men who were in committed relationships and married. There was an obvious correlation between lower levels of testosterone when commitment to a relationship. It is also important to remember that high levels of testosterone was what was preventing the oxytocin to affect the the male brain. Maslar concludes that when men are in a committed relationship, testosterone levels fall enough to allows oxytocin to make men to fall in love. Falling in love due to oxytocin is more similar to the way a female falls in love. The major difference? Commitment.

What do you think? Does commitment play a role in falling in love? Do you think commitment can alter brain chemistry? Let us know in the comment section below!  

Legit ADHD Resources and How to Find Them

In a day and age focused on the idea of fake news, it is important to be able to differentiate between legitimate information and complete nonsense. Making the distinction might sound like a pretty straightforward concept but the stakes are high when it comes to information regarding your ADHD and other treatments. The Internet is filled with information, both true and false, and it’s important to know the do’s and don’ts when searching the web.

Where to Look
Johns Hopkins Medical Center has a few key tips for anyone trying to find reliable health related information online. The first pointer is to go to websites that are known to be credible. A good starting place for looking up reliable health related information about ADHD is Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library and MedlinePlus. These websites have been written and reviewed by medical personnel, and provide accurate, up-to-date information.

When venturing off of these trusted websites and trying to decide if information on a web page is credible, there are a few things to watch out for. First, make sure the information you are reading is current. Try to find the date when the information was posted. Medical information changes rapidly and something that was advised for patients with ADHD a few years ago could nowadays be recommended against. A good rule of thumb is that information posted more than three years ago is outdated.

Another important thing to note when looking on websites is the author and where the information is coming from. Information posted online can be written by anyone. Always check to make sure articles are written by a doctor, nurse, psychologist, or that the article is citing scientific studies conducted by researchers. Be skeptical of any information found online not written by a medical professional or information not backed by research.

Where Not to Look
A study published in the Journal of Medical Research  states that third-party analytics found Wikipedia to be the most viewed medical resource in the world. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia containing information on a variety of topics including ADHD. Wikipedia has more than 155,555 medical related articles and this medical content was viewed more than 6.5 billion times in 2013. The catch is that the information found on Wikipedia can be edited by anyone with internet access.

A study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association investigated how accurate the medical information was on Wikipedia. In the study, researchers investigated the accuracy of information on the 10 most costly medical conditions. Researchers compared the medical information found on Wikipedia to the information published in evidence-based, peer-reviewed sources. They found that for 9 of the 10 conditions there were significant differences between the two types of sources. Although some studies have found Wikipedia to be reliable, this study concluded that for medical information, –particularly information on the top 10 most costly medical conditions – is inaccurate and people using Wikipedia are being misinformed.  

Advice From an Expert
Adam Sage, PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, conducted research about where parents are looking for information about their child’s ADHD. Sage appreciates that the Internet makes information available to more people, but also warns parents to be aware that there is false information out there.

Sage’s advice to parents searching the Internet for information is to be aware that each child with ADHD is unique. He says, “Any parent will tell you that no two children are the same, so the experience of another parent isn’t necessarily the same as the one you will have.”

Another concern is that we distrust medical professionals based on what we have read online. A major part of Sage’s study was figuring out what questions parents had, and whether or not they were actually asking them during doctor’s visits. He cautions parents not to assume they know information about ADHD because they found articles online. “Occasionally, people assume the information they found is correct and that affects the types of questions they do and don’t ask their physician. Not asking questions prevents the doctor’s ability to correct any misinformation and that’s not always the best way to go into a conversation with your doctor.” He advises parents to get information about their child’s ADHD and to confirm what they’ve found online with a physician or qualified health professional.

What do you think about how medical information is shared on the internet? Do you have any reliable websites you love to get information? Let us know in the comments!