Science Explains The Biology Of Love

by Lara Rutherford-Morrison
Heterosexual african ethnicity romantic couple loving and embracing under clear sky.
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The nature of love may be one of life’s great mysteries, but it turns out that at least some of it comes down to biology. A new episode of the Sci Show explains where love comes from, and, while the show doesn’t explain why you have chemistry with some people and not others, or why your partner’s weird habits make your stomach flutter with happiness, it does issue a much-needed correction about where love is located: We might say it’s the heart, but, actually, it’s the brain — and, more specifically, a part of the brain called the "hypothalamus." So instead of “I <3 you,” it would be more accurate to say “I [hypothalamus] you.” (What’s the emoticon for “hypothalamus”?)

As host Michael Aranda explains, “Our hearts have very little to do with how we actually feel love.” Instead of the heart, we should be looking at the limbic system — “the emotional center of your brain.” The limbic system controls all of our emotions, as well as things like sex drive. Your body’s nervous system sends sensory stimuli to the limbic system, which sends those signals on to the hypothalamus, a small section of the brain that controls the autonomic nervous system, aka the unconscious processes of the body (like breathing, blood circulation, digestion, and so on). Aranda describes the hypothalamus as the “CEO of your body,” and it’s responsible for a lot of important stuff:

We’ve all experienced the ways that emotions can affect the body — nervousness can give you “butterflies" in your stomach, anger can make you breath faster, and love can make your heart feel like it’s pounding. All of those feelings come from the hypothalamus, which uses the autonomic nervous system to translate emotion into physical reactions. The hypothalamus also affects your skeletal muscle system, which allows you to express emotions through your face and body language, as well as the endocrine system (made up of hormone-releasing glands like the pineal, pituitary, thyroid, and adrenal glands, plus ovaries, testes, and many others). It also produces its own important hormones. So basically, the hypothalamus influences everything, including our love lives. “I hypothalamus you,” indeed.

Watch the whole video below:

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