Love in the time of chemistry - can you fall in love at first scent or first swipe?

Can you fall in love with someone you've never seen before?
Can you fall in love with someone you've never seen before?

It is true, love hormones are real, and that fuzzy feeling you experience when you are in love are triggered by chemicals.

It may be just what you need this Valentine’s Day to make you feel good.

One needs the regular sex hormones (testosterone, estrogen and progesterone) to have a sex drive – but there are more at work. Everyone knows that slightly silly feeling when you are in love: Your heart races, cheeks flushing, your palms are sweaty, you are anxious but also so excited.

In fact, you struggle to concentrate at work, and you mind is buzzing. Sometimes you can’t sleep and you lose your appetite. You are high on a natural chemical love cocktail. 

Prof. Helen Fisher, from the Rutgers University in the USA, who has done research on these chemicals explains it. Dopamine is the chemical which gives a person pleasure, and feelings of bliss. When people’s brains where scanned while they were shown a picture of the person they are in love with, the reward centre in the brain flared up. The same area lights up when people binge eat or use drugs.

READ MORE: Is this the shortest marriage ever? Couple divorces just three minutes after tying the knot

Norepinephrine is similar to adrenaline and produces the racing heart, anxiety and excitement. 

The next love chemical is serotonin, which makes us obsessed with the other person.All these are feel-good neurotransmitters – which carries messages - connected to the brain’s reward system. No one can endure this excitement forever, it would be too hard on the body and mind. That is why you eventually lose that feeling of being in “in love”.

But everything is not lost, it becomes true love and pair-boding. During sex you release dopamine and oxytocin which can fuel lifelong pair bonds.

The extreme pain you may feel during a break-up is due to withdrawal-like symptoms of these chemicals, in the same way addictive drugs affect the brain. 

Another love chemical is oxytocin which is also produced by the brain. It functions both as a hormone and neurotransmitter, which carries messages.

Research has shown that in addition to its bonding effect in couples and between mothers and babies, oxytocin also stimulates one's social bonding. That is why a cuddle or a hug is such a good idea.

Higher levels of oxytocin correlate with greater empathy, lower social anxiety; reduction in the fear response; and greater trust in interpersonal exchange. 

READ MORE: Everything you need to spoil yourself and your bestie this Valentine's Day

Love at first scent?

No human pheromone has ever been isolated and it is probably not true that we can smell or produce then. Products that advertise that they contain pheromones have been derived from pigs. No study has led to the isolation of a true human sex pheromones, though various researchers have investigated the possibility of their existence.

Falling fastIt can take between 90 seconds and five minutes for us to decide if we like someone, but 55% of the messages we sent to each other is through body language, 38% is the tone of your voice and the way you speak, and 7% is about what we say.

Cyber dating – what science foundOnline and mobile dating is not only a multi-billion dollar industry it has shown trends published by leading scientists.  Such as cross all age groups,  women are more likely than men to state a preference.

Women in peak fertility are more picky about the education level of men they prefer; seeking the same level or higher in a potential mate. Over 40, men become more picky than women about the education level of their partner, according to the journal Psychological Science.

When people were allowed during studies to look anonymously at profiles they were much more likely to check out potential same-sex and interracial matches. But there is also a down-side: Perpetrators of dating scams simply set up false profiles on dating websites with the sole purpose of extracting money from their victims.

The scammer first grooms a victim by expressing love for them before outlining their desperate circumstances. They then attempt to request money from the victim.

READ MORE: "I was scammed out of R8300 after being seduced on Tinder"

Scientists also found some people who use dating Apps “spoofed” their location to find more matches in a wider radius; and structure experiments to see which profile pictures works best. Some men, swipe “like” on all profiles to increase the likelihood of a match.

The future

It might be possible to find a match in future based on your DNA profile, but only when geneticists are able to sequence those parts of the genome which express behaviour and personality.

Virtual Reality dating might be the next thing, from the comfort of your own home, who knows? An awkward blind date or not?

• Sources: Helen. E. Fisher – Rutgers University; American Chemical Society;  Journal of Personality (May 2014); "Understanding the Role of Community in Online Dating.

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