Monday, February 14, 2011

Love decrypted

The heart beats fast, the ideas become confused and are talking nonsense, legs flageolent, the thunderbolt causes uncontrollable chemical reactions in the brain that have nothing to do with magic. No matter what the great romantics, scientists have cracked the mystery of lightning. Chemistry professor at Laval University, Normand Voyer is one of those who contribute to breaking the myths.
Since 2007, he delivered over 80 lectures in schools on the chemistry of love. His goal: to pique the curiosity of young people to inspire them to study science.
"Everybody thinks that love is magical, it happens like that, but it's totally false! It is first and foremost chemical. The brain reacts to what he sees. It secretes molecules that have a significant impact on the body, so much so that it is possible to lose control, "says the researcher.
A very powerful drug
Anthropologist Helen Fisher probe the brains of lovers for 25 years to understand this phenomenon. We now know that the response generated in the presence of the loved one is caused by the secretion of four specific molecules: phenylethylamine, dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine. The fact of feeling attraction to a particular person is mainly conditioned by our upbringing.
"These molecules are very powerful drugs, capable of causing behavioral changes. Under their influence, the heart will beat faster. Blood pressure increases. That's why they turn red and stammer that. Dopamine makes you become very excited, "says Voyer.
Some people become totally addicted to lightning flashes. They feel an irresistible urge to repeat the experience. Unfortunately, the effect does not last forever. After 18 months, the intensity of the molecules gradually decreases and disappears completely after 4 years.
"That does not mean we can not stay with one person after," says the professor who is also director of the department.
Molecule attachment
Because nature is thoughtful, when the molecules of lightning fade, oxytocin takes over. This molecule, also called "molecule of attachment," is causing the feeling of comfort and well being tested in the presence of the loved one.
"That fact that two people can live together for 50 years," says the chemist.
Nobody is safe from a lightning strike. This does not mean we fall in love every time you are attracted to someone, grade the researcher.
The chocolate replacement
Without being in love for Valentine's Day, singles can always fall back on chocolate that has chemical properties similar to lightning.
An aphrodisiac
Topping the list are phenylethylamine, a natural amphetamine that is causing the feeling of well-being experienced when one is in love.
"Chocolate is the only scientifically proven aphrodisiac," says Normand Voyer, a chemistry professor at Laval University.
Phenylethylamine, which is recognized as the molecule of the thunderbolt, is found in trace amounts in chocolate with a high concentration of cocoa.
"Let's say that chocolate helps to be in a good mood," says Voyer.
The virtues of chocolate have been demonstrated repeatedly over the past 20 years. The Aztecs and the Incas ate to rejuvenate physically and mentally.
The tradition continues
Through science, we now know that chocolate contains substances that stimulate the pharmacodynamic central nervous system, strengthen the heart and increase resistance to fatigue.
Probably for all these reasons that chocolate is still today the traditional gift that offers the most Valentine's Day with roses.

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