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The Science of Love: State of the Art

Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (CNNCSN,volume 1331)

Abstract

In these last decades, emotions and feelings, neglected for centuries by experimental sciences, have become the topic of extensive neuroscientific research. Currently, love, the most typically human feeling, can be viewed as the result of different phases (steps), each regulated by evolutionary well-conserved and integrated neural substrates. We have proposed that the early stage, generally called romantic love, is the result of the activation of the brain limbic structures regulating fear/anxiety reactions leading to changes of major neurotransmitters, such as increased monoamine levels and decreased serotonin concentrations. The second stage of love is mainly underlain by the structures regulating the attachment system and involving oxytocin and vasopressin neuropeptides and neurotrophins. This would explain why the positive effects of love can be extremely beneficial for both mental and physical health.

However, available data are still limited, and the proposed models, although supported by converging data, should be considered speculative and oversimplified. The hope is that neuroscience will permit to shed light on love, one of the most intriguing, and still largely unknown mysteries of human nature.

Keywords

  • Love
  • Romantic love
  • Attachment
  • Neurobiology
  • Neurotransmitters
  • Neuropeptides
  • Neurotrophins

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-74046-7_16
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Fig. 16.1
Fig. 16.2

Abbreviations

BD:

bipolar disorder

BDNF:

brain-derived neurotrophic factor

dACC:

dorsal anterior cingulate cortex

ECR:

Experiences in Close Relationships

fMRI:

functional magnetic resonance imaging

NGF:

nerve growth factor

NTs:

neurotrophins

OCD:

obsessive-compulsive disorder

OT:

oxytocin

ReHo:

regional homogeneity

rsfMRI:

resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging

VP:

vasopressin

5-HT:

5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin)

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Correspondence to Donatella Marazziti .

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Marazziti, D., Palermo, S., Mucci, F. (2021). The Science of Love: State of the Art. In: Calzà, L., Aloe, L., Giardino, L. (eds) Recent Advances in NGF and Related Molecules. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology(), vol 1331. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-74046-7_16

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