Helen Fisher Love
Helen Fisher Love
Helen Fisher, Ph.D. has come to be associated with 'love' at least in the eyes of Google search, perhaps after the media blitz in conjunction with her most recently published book, WHY HER? WHY HIM?, just in time for Valentine's day this year.
(From her Rutgers page; She has conducted extensive research and written five books on the evolution and future of human sex, love, marriage, gender differences in the brain and how your personality type shapes who you are and who you love).
She does have a certain media presence and ability to think fast on her feet, especially when being queried by TV types who ask those delicious, seductive questions just perfect for ratings.
It seemed to me that Professor Fisher handled herself well, sustaining some ability to answer those questions from her research and still be playful.
However, from the vantage of my age, 61, and looking back all the way to when I was 13 and in the throes of puberty, to where I am now, in a marriage of 13 years with a good lady, also mischievious and playful, even with all that experience, it is difficult for me to explain the phenomenom of love, so I admire her research.
Professor Fisher has looked at some in love brains and some out of love brains with a fMRI machine to see what parts of the brain are active with blood flow when a subject is presented with an image of the beloved, for example.
If we know what parts of the brain are active, it is easier to tell what neurotransmitters are at work and what feelings are at play.
From a National Geographic Article, "One of Fisher's central pursuits in the past decade has been looking at love, quite literally, with the aid of an MRI machine. Fisher and her colleagues Arthur Aron and Lucy Brown recruited subjects who had been "madly in love" for an average of seven months. Once inside the MRI machine, subjects were shown two photographs, one neutral, the other of their loved one.
What Fisher saw fascinated her. When each subject looked at his or her loved one, the parts of the brain linked to reward and pleasure—the ventral tegmental area and the caudate nucleus—lit up. What excited Fisher most was not so much finding a location, an address, for love as tracing its specific chemical pathways. Love lights up the caudate nucleus because it is home to a dense spread of receptors for a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which Fisher came to think of as part of our own endogenous love potion. In the right proportions, dopamine creates intense energy, exhilaration, focused attention, and motivation to win rewards. It is why, when you are newly in love, you can stay up all night, watch the sun rise, run a race, ski fast down a slope ordinarily too steep for your skill. Love makes you bold, makes you bright, makes you run real risks, which you sometimes survive, and sometimes you don't.
1. lust - the sex drive or libido. 2. attraction - early stage intense romantic love. 3. attachment - deep feelings of union with a long term partner.
Love can start off with any of these three feelings, Fisher maintains. Some people have sex with someone new and then fall in love. Some fall in love first, then have sex. Some feel a deep feeling of attachment to another, which then turns into romance and the sex drive. But the sex drive evolved to initiate mating with a range of partners; romantic love evolved to focus one's mating energy on one partner at a time; and attachment evolved to enable us to form a pairbond and rear our young together as a team.
Fisher discusses many of the feelings of intense romantic love, saying it begins as the beloved takes on "special meaning." Then you focus intensely on him or her. People can list what they don't like about a sweetheart, but they sweep these things aside and focus on what they adore. Intense energy, elation, mood swings, emotional dependence, separation anxiety, possessiveness, physical reactions including a pounding heart and shortness of breath, and craving, Fisher reports, are all central to this feeling. But most important is obsessive thinking. As Fisher says "Someone is camping in your head."
Fisher and her colleagues have put 49 men and women into a brain scanner to study the brain circuitry of romantic love: 17 who had just fallen madly in love, 15 who had just been dumped, and 17 who reported that they were still in love after an average of 21 years of marriage. One of her central ideas is that romantic love is a drive that is stronger than the sex drive. As she has said, "After all, if you casually ask someone to go to bed with you and they refuse, you don't slip into a depression, commit suicide or homicide--but around the world people suffer terribly from romantic rejection."
Again, from National Geographic,"Using statistics from 40,000 people on the Internet dating site Chemistry.com, Fisher recently developed a personality test that measures four universal temperaments.
Each temperament type was linked to activity levels of the brain chemicals dopamine/norepinephrine, serotonin, testosterone, and estrogen/oxytocin.
Fisher found that a person's temperament guides which type of mate they select—boosting her belief that love involves some very powerful brain chemistry.
"People sing for love; they dance for love; they write about love; live for, kill, and die for love," Fisher told National Geographic News.
"It's a wonderful addiction when [a relationship is] working well—but perfectly horrible when it's working poorly."
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