The brain is by far the most complicated enigma of the human body. It is constantly changing and evolving to adapt to our biological needs. It rewires itself on a daily basis in order to adjust our moods, diets, habits, and desires. The parts of the brain that control love, however, are much more mysterious in regards to their biochemistry and their physical impact on the body.
New York Times columnist Diane Ackerman published a commentary piece regarding a new field of medicine that explores the biochemistry of emotional connections known as Interpersonal Neurobiology. It explores which parts of the brain control love, heartbreak, connections and relationships, and how the body is physically impacted by the brain’s reaction to these various personal aspects.
As the most intelligent and emotionally advanced creatures on the planet, humans thrive on relationships. Every important relationship, mother or friend or spouse, reshapes the brain in some way which, in turn, reshapes how we as people treat various relationships. As we grow emotionally closer to other people, we discover more about them and, more importantly, about ourselves.
“The brain knows who we are. The immune system knows who we’re not,” Ackerson writes, “and it stores pieces of invaders as memory aids. Through lovemaking, or when we pass along a flu or a cold sore, we trade bits of identity with loved ones, and in time we become a sort of chimera. We don’t just get under a mate’s skin, we absorb him or her.”
New studies conducted at UCLA are now showing that love and heartbreak have a stronger impact on the body than once previously thought. Neuroscientist Naomi Eisenberger explains in the article that the areas of the brain that respond to physical pain are also the same areas that are active when someone feels socially rejected. That’s why being spurned by a lover hurts all over the body, but in no place you can point to.
This new theory of mapping the brain via the immune system opens up a whole new field of research, including better ways for psychologists and neurologists to understand how the brain perceives love.