When we think about falling in love, we tend to think about the process as a matter of the heart. Which is interesting, given the fact that, besides a possible spike in your heartbeat or some butterflies in your stomach, falling in love actually has a lot more to do with what’s happening in your brain than it does anything else happening in your body. In fact, as a person starts to fall in love, the brain goes through quite a few changes that affect your thoughts, behavior, and emotions throughout the course of a relationship.
For starters, there are several parts of your brain that actually become deactivated as you fall in love. One study by researchers at University College London found, for example, that two areas of the brain – the amygdala and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which are responsible for registering anxiety and exercising good judgment, respectively – become deactivated as a someone starts falling in love. Meaning? On a neural level, falling in love tends to go hand-in-hand with reduced anxiety and less-than-great judgment (which explains the whole “love is blind” spiel we’ve come to be so familiar with).
Another brain-related response to falling in love? Becoming kind of obsessed. No, seriously. There’s a kind of addictive response that’s triggered when someone starts falling in love, with neurologists having examined similar neurochemical responses in the brain between people starting a new romance and experiencing drug addiction. This is especially true when it comes to sex, which can release dopamine into the brain – similar to how certain drugs might – and leave you wanting to experience that feeling over and over again. In a sense, the process of falling in love – at least on a scientific, neural level – doesn’t look all that different than developing a kind of obsessive-compulsive behavior. Romantic.
All of that aside, even the common physical responses that we experience when falling in love – again, we’re talking about the racing heart, the butterflies, the sweaty palms, etc. – really come back to what’s going on in your brain. According to research from Harvard University, chemicals associated with the reward circuit tend to flood the brain as you fall in love, and that, in turn, is what causes a lot of the physical responses that come with falling for someone.