Video: The Science Of Love
updated 2/15/2006 2:57:53 PM ET 2006-02-15T19:57:53

Is there scientific proof that you can be addicted to love?  Apparently, brain scans show that the same chemicals that cause drug addiction actually help people fall in love.  It‘s part of a new National Geographic “Naked Science” episode called “What‘s Sexy.”

So, is it a bunch of hype or is there a science to love? 

Sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer and Dr. Jennifer Berman, relationship expert for joined Joe Scarborough to separate fact from fiction.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST 'SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY': Dr. Ruth, we begin with you.  Talk about the science of love. 

DR. RUTH WESTHEIMER, SEX THERAPIST:  I will tell you what, Joe.  I will tell you what, Joe.  That worries me. 

If you—I‘m all for science.  I‘m a professor at Princeton and at Yale.  But it worries me that we are going to tell people on Valentine‘s Day, sit back and wait for a chemical in your brain.  Don‘t do anything about it.  Just sit there, and if that chemical works, you‘re going to fall in love. 

First of all, I want people to have the control over their brains.  I want them to say, look, it‘s time for me now to start a new relationship.  It‘s Valentine‘s Day.  Let me decide this year I will find a partner.  If anything in the science can help just to reinforce it, but don‘t sit back and wait until the MRIs and all of that stuff is going to be proven. 

In the meantime, you don‘t have a partner.  You don‘t celebrate Valentine‘s Day, and you don‘t have sex. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Dr. Berman, let me ask you about these new reports that have been coming out for some time now.  One of them that I heard about today said that actually the same type of reaction that you have to falling deeply in love causes things to occur in your brain that also happen when you are bipolar or manic depressive or something.

Like, people are comparing it to brain activity for somebody who‘s mentally ill.  What‘s that all about? 

DR. JENNIFER BERMAN,  Mentally ill, or, you know, you‘re lovesick, so to speak. 

There are studies, and the ones that you‘re referring to show that there‘s increased activation of the centers that are responsible for dopamine, and dopamine is a neurotransmitter, or chemical, that‘s secreted from the brain that is definitely associated with feelings of love, lust and infatuation. 

And I totally appreciate and mirror what Dr. Ruth is saying, in terms of take control, and, you know, we control our motivations.  But the problem is, the brain controls us.  And what you‘re referring to in terms of addiction, there is something addictive about love.  And, in fact, for people that have substance abuse history and/or issues, when they recover, they are told and instructed not to get involved in a new relationship, because love is like a drug, and it‘s replacing one drug, a chemical substance, for another. 

So, there is definitely an association between the regions of the brain associated with love and the regions of the brain associated with addictive behaviors, and that has been well confirmed through these MRI studies and animal research and others. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Dr. Ruth, can you give us advice on Valentine‘s Day eve? 

Give us some advice on love.  Give us some advice on relationships.

WESTHEIMER:  Well, first of all, Joe, when you say the word love, I want you to smile.  I want you to have that enthusiasm.  I want people to do a different position, even you, Joe, and...

BERMAN:  Her voice makes me smile.

WESTHEIMER:  And call me tomorrow.  Tell me about a position. 

WESTHEIMER:  But you decide it.  And the most important thing is to keep that interest in love and interest in relationships.  People ought not to be alone.  People ought to have a partner.  They ought to be able to share what is—what‘s possible to share. 

So, I would like to say, on this Valentine‘s Day, even if it‘s a commercial day, go out there and do something about your relationships.  It doesn‘t have to be chocolate. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Dr. Berman, I will give you the last word, same question to you. 

BERMAN:  Is that love is a wonderful thing, which is what Dr. Ruth is alluding to, and love—there‘s different phases of love and there‘s different chemicals in the brain that drive our behavior, from the infatuation stage, to the attachment stage of a long-term relationship, to the connection phase. 

And, ideally, we would be able to control our brains, but unfortunately, what all the research and what you are alluding to is, our brains control us, and there are real neurobiological reasons for our behavior.  But love definitely increases our endorphin levels, increases our mood, improves mood, improves well-being, and improves  overall quality of life.  So, I agree with Dr. Ruth.  Everyone should be in love today. 

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