November 28, 2005

Scientists say "romantic love" lasts one year.

Face reality. You are just some chemicals:
The University of Pavia found a brain chemical was likely to be responsible for the first flush of love.

Researchers said raised levels of a protein was linked to feelings of euphoria and dependence experienced at the start of a relationship.

But after studying people in long and short relationships and single people, they found the levels receded in time.

The team analysed alterations in proteins known as neurotrophins in the bloodstreams of men and women aged 18 to 31, the Psychoneuroendocrinology journal reported.

They looked at 58 people who had recently started a relationship and compared the protein levels in the same number of people in long-term relationships and single people.

In those who had just started a relationship, levels of a protein called nerve growth factors, which causes tell-tale signs such as sweaty palms and the butterflies, were significantly higher.

Of the 39 people who were still in the same new relationship after a year, the levels of NGF had been reduced to normal levels.
Now, stop being so damned sentimental.

17 comments:

reader_iam said...

Chemicals? What's wrong with chemicals?

Wasn't there a major company that once made a pile with the slogan "Better Living through Chemistry," or something like that (and, Ann, I'll be shocked if you don't get that reference).

Then there's this.

bearbee said...

Yes..but what triggers the brain chemical 'likely to be responsible for the first flush of love'?

brylin said...

A little brain chemical scratch-and-sniff to go on the album cover of this?

reader_iam said...

bearbee: Whatever it is, it's bound to be an hallucinogen, doncha think?.

(Happy to say I've retained a bit of it, though, as we move toward our 11th wedding anniversary. Or, according to this article, the 10th anniversary of our Losing our Nerve Growth Factor [NGF].)

(Although, the GOEON Growth Factor seems healthy enough. Kidding! I'm kidding. Glad to be married, here.)

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

"Better Living Through Chemistry"... Is there an alternative to living through chemistry? Living, dying, better, worse .... isn't it all chemistry?

sonicfrog said...

Ann. You're getting very close to immersing yourself into the "body fluids" mess again.

reader_iam said...

[I]sn't it all chemistry?

Except for where it's Math.

APF said...

If this is to be an indictment of anything, is this an indictment of love, or an indictment of transient lust? Seems to me this helps support the idea that being in a lasting relationship spanning a number of years boils down to a lot more than a temporary hormonal spike...

Dale B said...

Except for where it's Math.

It's all chemistry. Math is just a way to describe chemistry (or physics) more succinctly that we can in a natural language. By itself, math is just so many funny shapes on the paper.

A math major would probably disagree with the above.

Steven said...

You know, this could be the greatest weapon against divorce ever concieved.

Now that we've identified this chemical, we're a step closer to developong a drug that delivers or induces the production of the chemical. Then, when a couple finds itself in need of relationship counseling, they can reignite the romance directly as a supplement to their efforts to work out their problems, quite literally renewing their relationship.

Which, I admit, sounds quite cold and calculating. But as someone who's alive today because of modern antidepressants, I've become used to the idea of better living through artificial neurochemistry.

Brad said...

I would like to know if the researchers controlled for sexual activity-- Maybe its the sex that leads to increased levels of NGF.

And nerve growth factor does not cause sweaty palms and butterfly feelings. It is a trophic factor of the autonomic nervous system, but it is the activity of the ANS that causes these events, not NGF.

APF said...


Then, when a couple finds itself in need of relationship counseling, they can reignite the romance directly as a supplement to their efforts to work out their problems, quite literally renewing their relationship.

IIRC there have been experiments using Ecstasy in conjunction with couples' therapy using a similar logic...

Macon said...

Here's a song by Bush (the band, not the president) to go along with your post:
"The Chemicals Between Us"
[from the final chorus]
The chemicals between us
The army of achievers
Lying in this bed
The chemicals displaced
There is no lonlier face
Than lying in this bed

The chemicals between us
The chemicals between us
The chemicals

itunes has a clip of the chorus.

I've always like the song, but never thought it would really work for any kind of romantic situation.

XWL said...

Will this research lead to innoculations or supplements?

Both have merits. If you innoculate people against the 'spark' of first love than you might expect that they'll make more rational choices with regards to life partners.

On the other hand, if you provide a 'relationship viagra' pill full of these hormones than you can manipulate a couple's limbic system into believing that they are still in the flush of new love for as long as they are willing to pay for the treatments.

Our you could leave science out of the process altogether and leave nature be.

(and have they studied domesticated dogs compared to wild dogs, maybe their excessive imprinting on their human alphas comes from an inability to turn these chemicals off)

vbspurs said...

You are just some chemicals

Dibs on ununquadium!

Dean said...

Hmmm, my "romantic love" has lasted over 30 years....