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Make Love, not War: Casanova´s Secret Weapon
Worried about America's war in Iraq? Wondering when bank nationalization will happen? No sex at night because of all the bad economic news? Here is the alternative: Work on your Dopamine level. Having not quite enough of this substance can have grave effects on the brain and lead to Parkinson’s disease or schizophrenia. The right dose can get the emotions flowing. A little too much of it can turn you into a Casanova against your will. We are talking about another important hormone, namely dopamine. What is so special about this hormone? As scientists have found out, there is plenty of dopamine in the blood of people in love, and it appears that the molecule -- known to chemists as 2-(3,4-dihydroxyphenyl)ethylamine – plays a leading role in the games of love. It increases the physical motivation and on top of that it makes us euphoric. by Rolf Froböse
As we know today, dopamine acts directly upon the primitive part of our brain, the limbic system. The more dopamine arrives there, the better we feel. Dopamine is therefore known as the “happiness hormone” as well. This is the positive side of the coin.
In recent years, some researchers have tried to investigate the effects of this hormone more closely. One of the pioneers among these hormone hunters is the Italian Donatella Marazziti, a psychiatrist at the University of Pisa. Together with her colleagues she runs a research project to examine the processes occurring in the bodies of people in love. A group of appropriately enamoured students served as the human guinea pigs. “Racing heartbeats and sweaty hands are only the superficial signs of being in love,” she says. On the biochemical level, much more is happening.
In their research, Marazziti and her coworkers have focussed on the messenger chemicals in the blood. They found that these substances, which have a direct effect on the psyche, are found in larger amounts when people are in love than when they are not. The enamoured students showed particular large quantities of dopamine in their blood. This messenger makes people open up towards others to a larger extent than they would normally do. “We can conclude from this that the body of someone in love produces particularly large quantities of dopamine,” Marazziti summarises.
Excess amounts of dopamine can lead to pathological addiction to love
If there is not enough dopamine in the blood, that loving feeling cannot develop properly. But an excess of the hormone can have negative effects, as the example of Casanova demonstrates. Marazziti says about her famous compatriote: “He must have had an absolute excess of dopamine.” Presumably, this is the biochemical reason why his desire became compulsive. “In such cases we can call it an addiction, caused by too much dopamine,” she diagnoses. In contrast, people with the opposite problem need to take dopamine medication in order to harmonise their love balance. Marazziti believes that many people are unable to develop feelings of love simply because of their biochemical set-up. What makes the situation even worse is when the occipital areas of the brain, which are responsible for “sorting” emotions, cannot fulfil their task properly.
“In those cases, restlessness and nervousness, the typical side effects of being in love, can only be processed very slowly,” she says. Administering therapeutic doses of dopamine could help such people.
The article is taken from the book “Lust and Love - Is it more than chemistry?” written by the German science authors Gabriele and Rolf Froboese and published by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) in London. Courtesy of: Gabriele and Rolf Froböse
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