|I and Thou|
Neurophysiology and Love
Every human interaction changes the brain structure and function of the participants. A female rat is interested in sex 10 hours every 4 days when her brain is flooded with dopamine which activates, among other things, a sexual response modulator protein, DARPP-32. The female rat generates her sexual receptivity on her own and becomes flirtatious. She approaches a male rat, bites his ear to get his attention and then turns around, raises her tail and arches her back, ready for intercourse. Her behavior has a big impact on the male rat and he drops whatever he was doing to oblige her. Sexual interest, proclivity, receptivity and expressions are all regulated by brain systems and hormones that interact in a complex manner. All animal behavior has an inner process connected to an outer form.
As we understand inner processes better, we understand how profound biological processes are in determining human behavior. Powerful procedures inside generate behaviors that act on the outside and behavior generates powerful feedback that modifies and regulates the inside. Every experience changes the brain of the person having the experience.
Obviously, causal, brief encounters leave behind minimal and transient changes in the brain. Work relationships and friendships result in more permanent and important brain changes. Love affairs, intimate and family relationships are built on profound changes in the brain of each of the participants.
In a practical sense, all meaningful and lasting relationships require that existing neural networks are specifically tuned to intimate humans and new neural networks grow to accommodate the specific features of each new intimate person.
We speak of relationships growing, evolving and maturing. Falling in love and falling out of love are disruptive transitions because major changes in neural patterning are required in both directions. Some long-established changes in brain patterning cannot be reversed. The person who was a lover is gone forever, transformed into a married person. The married person persists even years after the divorce. Learned behaviors and memories fade over time, but do not disappear completely.
Humans cannot invent their sexual behavior out of ideas and learned preferences. Humans express their sexuality invented within and are vulnerable to the vagaries of their environment which contains potent chemical regulators – both natural and unnatural – of their sexuality.
Humans, like most animals are multisensory creatures and gather information about any new person in a variety of ways. Important determinants are hidden from consciousness and involve airborne chemicals, for example - smells that we are aware of and pheromones that we are not aware of.
Visual information is important and much of the crucial processing of visual information is done before a visual image is conscious. Your visual person processor determines how attractive a person is and lets you know if you are interested or not. There is no conscious process that can replace or alter this spontaneous evaluation. Your hormones are already being pumped from critical areas in your brain before you have a chance to admire in any detail the visual image. Similarly you may dislike someone right away or dismiss him or her as "not my type" if you get the wrong signals.
If you are unlucky, the wrong chemicals changed your sexual circuitry in utero and you have difficulty adapting your sexual preferences to a social environment. You may also continue ingest or inhale the wrong chemicals that scramble the delicate pulse and rhythms of natural controllers, leaving your sexual interests and rhythms in a dysfunctional state.