6 Counterintuitive Things That Happen To Your Brain When You Fall In Love

Biologist By Dawn Maslar
Dawn Maslar, M.S., is an award-winning author, adjunct biology professor and the go-to authority on the science of love. She is the author of Men Chase, Women Choose: The Neuroscience of Meeting, Dating, Losing Your Mind and Finding True Love, and was voted one of the Top 20 Most Followed Dating Experts on twitter and Best 28 Dating, Marriage and Relationship Blogs in the UK to follow in 2015.
6 Counterintuitive Things That Happen To Your Brain When You Fall In Love

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My employee Alicia called me to tell me something weird was going on. She didn't understand what was happening to her. She's always been a model employee. But lately she's noticed that she's starting to forget things. Not only that, but she's been having trouble sleeping and has lost her appetite. And to top it all off, she can't stop looking at her phone.

I asked her what she was looking at on her phone, and she said, "I'm looking to see if he texted." That's when I knew Alicia had nothing to worry about. She wasn't sick or losing her mind; Alicia had simply fallen in love.

Sound crazy? Well, technically, it is. When you fall in love, it does some insane things to you. Here are just six of the crazy things that happen to your brain when you fall in love:

1. Sexual differences diminish.

Our physical sex differences, including structural differences in the brain, are a result of the amount of testosterone in our bodies. When we fall in love, something rather strange happens. A man's testosterone level drops while a woman's surges. In a way, we become more alike. Maybe that's why couples often say, "The lines between us seem to blur."

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2. Serotonin levels drop.

Most people will tell you that they're happy when they fall in love. But that's impossible. Research shows that serotonin (the happiness hormone) actually plummets when he or she falls in love. Dr. Marazziti of the University of Pisa discovered that when you fall in love, your serotonin level can fall to the level of someone with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). In other words, you're not happy—you're obsessed. That's why Alicia kept looking at her phone; she couldn't wait to hear from her beloved again.

3. Cortisol levels surge.

Dr. Marazziti also found that at the same time your serotonin drops, your cortisol is rising. Cortisol is a stress hormone that prepares your body for "fight or flight." High levels can make you feel energized. That's why Alicia couldn't eat or sleep. When your stress hormones skyrocket to earth-shattering levels, it becomes difficult to digest or rest.

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4. Anxiety decreases.

Now, here's the weird part. With your cortisol at super-high levels, you would expect to feel anxious, but you don't. It's actually the opposite. You feel alive and energized but not worried. That's because as your hormone levels increase, the part of your brain that should be responding to the increase is shutting down.

Researchers Andreas Bartels and Semir Zeki of University College London found that when you fall in love, parts of your brain actually deactivate. One of these areas is your amygdala. That's the part of your brain that registers anxiety by sounding an alarm. Therefore, although your high cortisol level should have you running around like Chicken Little, you find yourself oddly content. Even if you notice something wrong with your beloved, it won't bother you because your alarm system is offline. But don't worry—you probably won't notice anything wrong with them because the part of your brain that should be judging is shut down too.

5. You lose your judgment.

You've heard the old saying that love is blind. Well, it's not really blind; it's more like brain-damaged. Andreas Bartels and Semir Zeki found that not only does your amygdala deactivate, but your ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain that's responsible for critical judgment, takes a vacation. But don't judge yourself too harshly about it…oh wait, you can't.

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6. You get stupid.

If that isn't bad enough, researchers at Leiden University in the Netherlands discovered that you actually lose cognitive function when you fall in love. That's right, you lose some of the intellectual processes that allow you to perceive and comprehend ideas.

I know all of this doesn't put falling in love in the best light. But the truth is, even knowing what happens, I'd still choose falling in love every time.

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