couple holding hands

This post was last updated on February 9, 2017

The average person falls in love seven times before marriage. Being “lovesick” can cause some pretty strong effects on the body. Discover the science behind one of the most thrilling human emotions.

Science of Love


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Love and Hormones

Science tells us that attraction occurs when the brain chemicals dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin kick in. These chemicals can cause happiness, which leads to sweaty palms and faster beating hearts. Attachment is the release of the oxytocin and vasopressin hormones, which helps to form deep bonds.

Six Parts of the Brain Affected

Prefrontal Cortex

Gives humans the ability to reason, which may lower when a person is in love

Cingulate Gyrus

Alerts one’s brain to an emotionally charged event


Plays a role in emotion and memory regulation

Ventral Tegmental Area

Processes emotions related to the feeling new lovers may experience


Plays a role in processing emotions and expressing trust


Releases hormones that bring about rapid heartbeat and lightheadedness
Dopamine is known as “the pleasure chemical.” Dopamine is found in the ventral tegmental area in the brain, where it floods the caudate nucleus. People who are in love often have elevated dopamine levels. Men in love show more activity in the visual part of the brain, while women show more activity in the memory portion of their brain when they are in love.

A Real “Love Sickness”

Broken Heart Syndrome – Broken heart syndrome, or Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is a sudden weakening of the myocardium, or the muscle of the heart. Highly stressful emotional situations, such as the death of a loved one or difficult breakup can trigger the weakening, leading to acute heart failure, lethal ventricular arrhythmias, and ventricular rupture. In rare cases, broken heart syndrome can be fatal.

About UPMC Western Behavioral Health

UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is the hub of UPMC Behavioral Health, a network of community-based programs providing specialized mental health and addiction care for children, adolescents, adults, and seniors. Our mission is to provide comprehensive, compassionate care to people of all ages with mental health conditions. UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is a nationally recognized leader in mental health clinical care, research, and education. It is one of the nation’s foremost university-based psychiatric care facilities through its integration with the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. We are here to help at every stage of your care and recovery.