The following review was contributed by: NORM GOLDMAN EDITOR OF BOOKPLEASURES
To read an interview conducted by Norm with Dr. Fisher click HERE
From time immemorial philosophers, poets, writers, and probably anyone else who could voice an opinion have pondered over the question, what is romantic love? In fact, if you ask someone to describe its attributes, you would probably be informed that once you experience romantic love it is difficult to control. For those of us who have been fortunate enough to have fallen in love, we are well aware of some of the effects it may have on us, such as, being obsessed with our partners, distorted reality, emotional and physical dependence, personality changes, and domination of our drives to eat and sleep.
In 1996, renowned anthropologist, Dr. Helen Fisher, with a team of behavioral scientists, set out to investigate the mystery of “being in love.” Their objective was to find out why we love, why we choose the people that we choose, the differences between male and female feelings as it pertains to romance, animal love, love at first sight, love and lust, love and marriage, evolution of love, love and hate, and the brain in love. The culmination of this study has now been summed in Dr. Fisher’s book, Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love.
In order to scientifically study these themes, Dr. Fisher and her team used the newest technology for brain scanning known as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The team endeavored to record men and women’s brain activity, after they had just fallen madly in love. The principal objective was to record the range of feelings associated with “being in love.”
Dr. Fisher’s findings are extremely interesting, particularly the observations she and her team were able to make with their brain scanner concerning the different brain regions that become active when their subjects felt romantic ecstasy.
A strong believer in the theory that romantic love is a universal human feeling that produces specific chemicals and networks in the brain; the author was determined to discover what effect these chemicals and networks had on the human brain. Consequently, her study focused on collecting scientific data on the chemistry and brain circuitry of romantic love, and more particularly on dopamine and norepinephrine, as well as a related brain substance, serotonin. Dr. Fisher states that the reason why she concentrated on these chemicals was because the “attraction animals feel for particular mates is linked with elevated levels of dopamine and/or norepinephrine in the brain.” Moreover, as she states, “all three of these chemicals produce many of the sensations of human romantic passions.”
The method used by Dr. Fisher and her team was to ask their love-smitten subjects to look at a photograph of his or her beloved, and secondly to look at another photograph of an acquaintance who generated no positive or negative romantic feelings. Pictures were taken of the brain and blood flows in the brain were also recorded.
Dr. Fisher’s observations are presented in an engaging style devoid of technical terms, and will go a long way with its interesting insights in helping us understand more about romantic love.
Moreover, this fascinating analysis of romantic love reveals a great deal more about the subject than we may have initially perceived.
As a side note, I found it somewhat amusing that Dr. Fisher had prefaced her chapters with quotes from many literary giants as Shakespeare, Yeats, Shelley, Dickens, and others who have written about romantic love. Many of these quotes only reconfirm Dr. Fisher’s scientific findings, and will probably seduce readers in rushing back to read the romantic writings of these literary figures.