Clearly, I'd say, love has some evolutionary significance. Why do we love each other? Evolutionary adaptive reasons seem quite convincing: people in love have sex, sex makes babies, and people in love take care of each other, thereby incrasing chances of baby's survival. What a wonderful reward it all is! But what happens in the brain, and why does it feel so bad to lose the one we love? This blog post on Big Think looks at the neurological and chemical underpinnings of this most wonderful human(?) emotion, and what is has to do with sex.
Love is in the brain: That said, it appears that when people are in love, among other neurological activities, two parts of their brain really get activated. They are called the caudate nucleus and the tegmentum. The caudate is a reward center of the brain, and the tegmentum is a region of the brain stem that sends dopamine to it; dopamine tracks how rewarding something is. I get this with food, for example when I eat the perfect kiwi.
And drugs do it too: In effect, being in love rewards the pleasure centers in your brain, which then crave whatever it was that was so rewarding – in other words, your beloved. Those reward centers are the same ones that light up when people win the lottery. Or use cocaine. But love is a double-edged sword, and when it goes wrong it can haunt us like a vendetta.
Indeed, love literally hurts: And being rejected in love activates a part of the brain called the insula, which is the same region that lights up when we are in physical pain. So we are doubly motivated to hold fast to the object of our love: feel the pleasure, and avoid the pain.
Evolution favors those that feel love, if we believe that the emotion is adaptive. Hard to test, but still a pretty persuasive idea.
Kurt Gödel's Open World
1 day ago in The Curious Wavefunction