Love Chemicals: the motivating energy of the brain

by Penny Boreham

“We love life, not because we are used to living but because we are used to loving” Friedrich Nietzsche.

You look across the room and you see a person you love and, at that very moment, according to the stem biologist and author Dr Bruce Lipton, you are releasing chemicals from your brain that match your perception of that person and your interpretation of their feelings for you. The love chemicals released with that loving feeling are dopamine, oxytocine, vasopressin and growth hormone, and that is quite a mixture. Dr Lipton explains that should he “take the chemicals just released by the brain and the perception of love and add them to cells in a plastic culture dish those cells would grow exhuberantly well”.

We have all noticed how, when people are first in the throes of love, they look so radiant and often feel so healthy and bouncy. This, says Bruce Lipton, is because “the chemistry going into the culture medium of love is a chemistry of health and growth”

Biological anthropologist and researcher Helen Fisher has also studied what is going on in the brains of those who are in the heady, butterflies- in- the stomach, throes of passionate romantic love. She has found that when an individual is focusing on the object of their affection, a whole host of brain parts light up. One part that is activated is the caudate nucleus, which is part of the primitive reptilian brain, and also the areas associated with dopamine and norepinephrine production, both of which are chemicals associated with pleasurable activities and excitement.

As Dr Fisher says: “No wonder lovers talk all night or walk till dawn, write extravagant poetry and self-revealing e-mails, cross continents or oceans to hug for just a weekend, change jobs or lifestyles, even die for one another. Drenched in chemicals that bestow focus, stamina and vigour, and driven by the motivating engine of the brain, lovers succumb to a Herculean courting urge.”

But of course the reverse is also true. If we see something we fear or which causes us anxiety we start to release cortisol, inflammatory and stress agents in to the blood and these agents, if added to a petrie dish, would cause the cells to shut down and die.

When we have unresolved trauma in our system, we are constantly in a state of anxiety and hyper arousal, and are therefore releasing hormones, such as cortisol, and often in situations that others might not find particularly activating. The treatments here at Khiron House concentrate on both top down and body up approaches, recognising the interconnectedness of our perceptions and our bodies and of course our health.

Dr Lipton argues strongly that medicine must start to embrace those dynamic relationships at work in our systems. Our thoughts can turn into chemicals which are released by the brain – those chemicals go into the blood, as a culture medium, and travel to the surface of the cells where receptors pick up the signals. These are the very receptors that send the information to the genes and adjust our genetics. So Dr Bruce Lipton argues that we should stop seeing ourselves as the victims of our genes and start to understand that our perceptions and experiences are influencing them all the time.

We are learning more and more about how the brain is an organ that is interwoven with our entire body and all of its systems, and how our experiences and perceptions are in a dynamic relationship with every cell of our body.

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear” Martin Luther King, Jr.

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