The Science of Heartbreak

science of heartbreakLike most healthcare practitioners, I often hear clients discuss their fear of loving or trusting another person after they have been terribly disappointed or hurt in a romantic relationship.

Being deeply hurt or emotionally wounded through deception, rejection or infidelity cuts to the quick of the human heart. Many of us would like to be able to just “put it behind us” and move on with our lives, but the research of a remarkable scientist now explains why it is so painful and difficult to bounce back quickly from a broken heart. The research also throws light on how difficult and sometimes desperate we can feel during that experience.

Helen Fisher, Ph.D., biological anthropologist, is a research professor and member of the Center for Human Evolution Studies in the Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University and chief scientific adviser to the Internet dating site Chemistry.com (a division of Match.com). She has conducted extensive research and written five books on the evolution and future of human love, sexuality, marriage, gender differences in the brain and how your personality type shapes who you are and who you love.

Brain Issues

Fisher’s research on heartbreak identifies areas of the brain, the caudate nucleus and the ventral tegmental area, whose involvement in romantic love proves this deep-seated drive to be far more powerful and urgent than we may have previously believed. Fisher says that romantic love is “really a drive that is deeply primordial and primitive.” She explains that romantic love experiences “are way below the emotional center and in fact are not emotions at all, but rather a powerful drive and need that is shared by all human beings.”

Through thousands of imaging studies both in the U.S. and in China, Fisher and her research team has established just how important it is for human beings to be in relationships where they experience reward for their feelings and efforts toward the significant other. There are additional studies that show that the same portion of the brain, the anterior insula, is both the location of physical pain, as well as heartache. In a previous article I discussed a study that showed how Tylenol influences this part of the brain and can reduce the discomfort of heartache as well as a headache.

If you want to understand more about this fascinating subject and how to help yourself overcome the heartache of lost love, visit www.helenfisher.com, where a book list on her research is available. You can also download a free excerpt from the Amazon #1 bestselling, multi-award winning book Changing Behavior, by going tohttp://www.changingbehavior.org/

Genes and Physical Attraction

During the summer my apple trees, with their sweet droppings all about the orchard, produce an enormous population of fruit flies. Apart from being occasionally annoying and making a bit of noise, they would not be a topic to capture one's attention. At least I never thought so, until I read a fascinating study about fruit flies that indicated our gender may be largely connected to our genes.

Geneticist Barry Dickson and graduate student Ebru Demir, of the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, Austria made a small change to a genetically altered gene that they engineered into female fruit flies. This very specific gene alteration that was integrated into the female flies would always produce male fruit fly protein.

The genetically altered female fruit flies behaved like amorous male flies – perusing other female fruit flies and wooing them with the species elaborate courtship display. This gene altering and its subsequent behavioral results were reported in the scientific professional journal Cell.

The engineered females rejected males that tried to mate with them and began to imitate the multi-step male courting dance which is truly fascinating but a bit too racy to describe in this article – I am not kidding! The two scientists hypothesize that the altered genes set into motion a cascade of genetic changes to re-program the female fruit flies sexual behavior.

One of the most spell binding books I have ever read about behavior and genetics is Melvin Konner's brilliant and stunning book, The Tangled Wing. His book is about humans and not fruit flies. So, if you are fascinated by how our amazing hormones and genetics create and effect our thoughts, behaviors and even sexual preferences, this book is a must read.

It is also an amazing book to read to better understand the wide range of “masculinity” and “feminine” behavior that exits in men and women. When we explore the science of how our brains function through our biochemistry and how this biochemistry is in control of the actions and behaviors it helps us to be more understanding and compassionate about ourselves and others.

The renowned behaviorist, B.F. Skinner, stated many decades ago that our hormones were the most powerful movers of how we lived our lives. More recently, Candyce Pert, PhD, author of Molecules of Emotions, has done the research that demonstrates exactly how the brain’s neuropeptides achieve our behavior outcomes.

For those interested in the subject of behavior and brain function, Melvin Konner’s and Candyce Pert’s work is highly recommended. For a free download of the bestselling, award winning behavior change book, Changing Behavior, visit www.changingbehavior.org.