How Love Works – Understanding Erotic Love
The word love covers a wide variety of complex emotional states. In general, love is a romantic association characterized by passion, intimacy, commitment, trust, and caring. It entails emotional intimacy, care, closeness, devotion, security, attraction, and trust in relationships. Love can range from a simple, sincere feeling to an intensely personal bond of devotion. It also can involve a range of emotional states, such as happiness, excitement, vitality, life satisfaction, and joy. It is the feeling or state of being loved or having affectionate attachments.
Love is the most basic and important human need. It arises from a basic need for human intimacy. When love is strong and persists for a long period of time, it develops into romantic love or more commonly, romantic attachment. Romantic love is the strongest form of intimate attachment between two people, though other kinds of feelings may also exist (hormonal, sexual, attachment, parental, friendliness). As a result, some people have an intense longing for another person, while others have little or no attachments to anyone or anything at all.
Love is also related to an intense desire or yearning that compels people to form a relationship or invest in another person. True love is one of the highest emotions humans experience. People are drawn to others that possess similar values, attitudes, personalities, talents, or capabilities. Attraction to another person occurs when the self-disclosure and sharing of essential information creates an emotional bond between two people that lasts.
Neuroscientists have conducted several studies on the topic of romantic love. One study found that there are brain areas activated during romantic love when participants were asked to view photographs of themselves or others. These same brain areas were activated during non-romantic love experiences when participants were asked to view photographs of people they did not know. This study further determined that the romantic love brain areas were activated during moments of intense visual contact. In another study, scientists determined that the areas of the brain activated during this sensation were also located in areas related to empathy, which is the human tendency to feel sympathy for others’ feelings.
People may be in love with each other, but sometimes they are just in love with their own comfort. Biologist Paul Ziggery studied the connection between erotic love and sexual attachment in animals. He found that the two features are often seen together in animals. Ziggery found that the ventral tegmental area (VTA), a part of the brain that controls emotion, memory, behavior, cognition, imagination, movement, behavior, sexual preference, territory, sex drive, aggression, and novelty, is activated during sexual encounters between animals and that the connections between the VTA and these feelings are unique to human beings. Ziggery’s studies also revealed that the connections between the VTA and erotic love were stronger in people with high intelligence. In addition, his studies showed that there is an enhanced response in the brain when the person is experiencing erotic love.
There is a lot more that can be learned about love. In fact, there have been studies that have been conducted since the 1950s that still have not found all of the connections that exist between the brain regions that respond to romantic relationships and other brain regions related to a liking for someone else. However, what is known is that there is definitely a relationship between these brain regions, along with the responses that the brain provides, to the feelings that someone has for another person. It will probably be a lot more work for researchers to unpack all of the various relationships between these brain regions and the various feelings that people have for one another as time goes on.