Love is like Cocaine: The Remarkable, Terrifying Neuroscience of Romance – Part 2

Yes, you really are addicted to love.

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Beliefs and Brain Chemistry

When the systems of neurotransmitters in our brain destabilize during the early phases of a romantic relationship, our moods become unsteady too. And so does our ability to think rationally and make wise decisions. When you become truly infatuated with a person, you might make decisions you wouldn’t dream of making in a sane state of mind. Nothing really matters compared to the object of your infatuation. In extreme cases, we might max out credit cards, leave our families, move across oceans, abdicate a throne, rob banks, or even commit murder for the sake of love.

When there is a substantial imbalance in your brain chemistry, your preferences and reasoning abilities change and so do your beliefs. Research has shown that when you mess with your brain chemistry, you are more likely to have spiritual experiences, see things that are not there, and form beliefs that are not grounded in evidence.

In the 1960s, researchers experimented with the psychedelic drug psylocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, to see if it could induce spiritual experiences in healthy volunteers. The first of these experiments took place on Good Friday in 1962. Harvard researchers administered psilocybin to ten students in the basement of Marsh Chapel at Boston University. The religious setting and the drug together gave rise to religious experiences in all study participants.

(The experiments came to a halt when the US government prohibited them in the early 1970s.)

Psychedelic drugs, such as psilocybin, LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), and mescaline, affect the dopamine system, the serotonin system, and the adrenergic system. Their effects on the adrenergic systems, which normally cause an increase in the blood concentration of adrenaline, can cause panic attacks and extreme anxiety. The drugs’ effects on the dopamine system are responsible for thoughtless decision making and irrational actions during a “trip,” such as self-mutilation or suicide. The psychedelic effects of the drugs are largely due to their affinity for the 5-HT2A receptor. This receptor is a serotonin receptor. When a psychedelic drug in the serotonin family binds to it, the drug functions just like serotonin.

In normal amounts, the feel-good chemical serotonin yields a sense of relaxation and relief. In large amounts, however, serotonin and serotonin agonists like LSD, DMT (dimethyltryptamine), and the magic mushroom ingredient psilocybin have psychedelic effects. In large amounts, these chemicals trigger the brain’s main excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate, which makes parts of the brain go into an over-excited state.

The effects of excessive amounts of serotonin can be so powerful that our critical sense is turned off. A famous, mind-boggling case illustrating this is the Dr. Fox study. In the 1970s an actor was trained to deliver a brilliant talk on mathematical game theory while saying basically nothing of substance. The actor, who bore the name Dr. Myron L. Fox, had taken a scholarly article on game theory and stripped it of its content. The talk was rife with hedging, invented words, contradictory assertions, and references to his alleged earlier articles and books. Surprisingly, his delivery so impressed the audience that nobody noticed that he didn’t really say anything. At the end of the talk the audience, which consisted primarily of experts, bombarded Fox with questions, which he answered proficiently without providing any substantial content. After the lecture, the audience was given the opportunity to evaluate the performance. Everyone was very positive, they thought the lecture had been interesting, and some noted that Dr. Fox had presented the material clearly and precisely and offered lots of illustrative examples. And these folks were academic experts on the topic of mathematical game theory! Speaking of being fooled by what you hear!

This effect of delivery on audience evaluation has come to be known as “The Dr. Fox effect.” The Dr. Fox effect can be explained by noting that a large surge in “feel good” chemicals will turn off our critical sense. Funny, charming, and persuasive people signal to our brains that everything is as it should be. Their smooth behavior boosts our serotonin levels, which turn off our critical sense and increase our feeling of satisfaction—so much so that our initial beliefs are never subjected to scrutiny in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the anterior insula, regions of the brain involved in reflecting critically on new information.

The effects of psychedelic drugs, such as LSD, DMT, and psilocybin, are extreme. Because these drugs cause the brain to enter an over-excited state, they can have seizure-like effects. They furthermore can give rise to hallucinations, illusory color experiences, a feeling of floating , a feeling of one’s identity disintegrating , a feeling of becoming one with the universe, and illusions of time and distance. Thoughts can become uncontrollable, rambling , and obscure, and edged in acid, old memories may blend with new experiences.

While our serotonin levels tend to be low when we fall in love or are beset by a mindless love obsession, there are also states of love that resemble LSD trips. When your passion is unrequited or when you are away from your new love, your serotonin levels drop. But if you unexpectedly bump into him or her or realize that his or her love is not unrequited after all, your brain may release a surge of serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline, making your mind a bit like the LSD mind. In this state, you may be more likely to see things that are not there, have experiences that are mixed with old memories, and act in irrational ways.

Dopamine by itself can cause people to form beliefs that are not grounded in evidence. People whose blood levels of dopamine are higher than normal are more likely to attach meaning to sheer coincidences and find meaningful patterns in arbitrary scrambled images.

Peter Brugger, a neurologist from the University Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland, examined twenty people who claimed to believe in paranormal events and twenty who claimed they didn’t. When the participants were asked to tell which faces were real and which were scrambled among a series of briefly flashed images, people who believed in paranormal events were more likely than skeptical participants to pick out a scrambled face as real. The results were the same when the participants were tested using words instead of faces. After the initial trials, the researchers administered L-dopa, which has the same effects as dopamine, to both groups of participants. After taking this drug, skeptics made many more mistakes when looking for real words or faces than before taking the drug.

The results of the study suggest that dopamine can make you see things that aren’t there and form beliefs without solid evidential backing. These results may explain the tendency of people in love to idealize their partners and attach meaning to every little move he or she makes. When in love, your dopamine levels are high when you think of your lover. This makes your brain a less reliable instrument for forming solid beliefs or making wise decisions.

 

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

My new book, Angel with a Broken Wing is now for sale on Amazon!

 

 

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Listen to the Phicklephilly podcast LIVE on Spotify!

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A Watershed Moment

A Watershed Moment is a turning point, the exact moment that changes the direction of an activity or situation. A Watershed Moment is a dividing point, from which things will never be the same. It is considered momentous, though a Watershed Moment is often recognized in hindsight.

But not today.

Happy Monday Everyone! Welcome to July 2020. 

It’s amazing to finally get a book you’ve working on published! Back on Valentine’s day of this year I was surprised when Phicklephilly the book, first appeared on Amazon. It was an exhilarating rush to finally have my work published.

 

When COVID-19 struck, it threw us all for a loop. But it opened up the opportunity to do the things we never had time to do. (Because we were all working!) I decided to compile and publish Crazy Dating Stories from my life. I put it out in three volumes on Amazon Kindle, and the Anthology on Kindle and paperback.

But as time went by, I felt the need to do something more. Something bigger. Something that wasn’t a non-fiction account of all of the crazy dates and relationships I’d been in.

I wanted to tell a story. Something that came from my mind and heart. The kind of book I would read.

…and Angel with a Broken Wing was born!

My publisher sent me author copies and I got them today! It’s funny… you write a book and get it published, and people buy it. They send you pictures of your book. It’s really nice to see that they bought it and that the book is selling.

But when you open the box that came in the mail, and you reach in and actually hold in your hands the thing that you made… The thing you created that wasn’t there before, it’s incredible. It’s no where near what I felt the day the nurse handed me my daughter for the first time… but it’s pretty darn good!

Thanks to everyone who supported me during this amazing journey. Thanks to my friends and family who patiently listened to me complain over and over about how much I hate editing. I’m so grateful to everybody at Amazon, AmazonKindle, WordPress, and GoDaddy. I couldn’t bring my stories to life without you guys!

I’m currently editing Phicklephilly 2, and I hope to have it out this Fall. I’m still debating whether I should publish Sun Stories: Tales from a Tanning Salon. There’s just so many moving parts to that book. If it does publish, it’ll be an enormous tome. I don’t know if I want that. I feel that some of those stories need to be told, but only time will tell. It would be a mad book because of all of the crazy stuff that happened there, but I just don’t know. It starts out innocent enough, but then becomes insane. I need to find its voice before I can even attempt to publish such an explosive expose’.

I’m also working on my second work of fiction. (Working title: Below the Wheel) It’s a hard boiled detective story that is nothing like Angel with a Broken Wing. I am in negotiations with a local artist for the cover. It needs a completely different look than Angel.

Once that’s completed, I’d like to write something heartfelt. I’ve always wanted to tell the quintessential summer at the seashore story. I’m not sure what that’s going to look like yet. I’m just going to let it flourish in my mind on it’s own over the next few months.

Anyway, I hope you’re all reading my Behind the Scenes mini series about Angel with a Broken Wing that publishes every Monday on Phicklephilly. It’s a revealing look into where all the ideas for the book came from.

The next book isn’t going to write itself, so I better get back at it. Before all of this all happened, I had short hair and no beard! Now, I’m approaching Big Lebowski territory! But based on my social media likes, the ladies dig it!

(Yea, that’s Jeff Buckley, Aerosmith and Farrah Fawcett behind me in my studio! Two dead, one band still alive and kicking. All beloved… and good inspiration!)

Thanks to everybody for getting us to 50,000 page views so far for 2020 on Phicklephilly! The blog wouldn’t exist without you! Also, a big thanks to all of the great companies that advertise on my site! I’ll keep generating solid content to support your brands. Kohls, Zipcar, Progressive, Geico, Duck duck go, and the rest!

Thanks for the revenue guys!

Alright! See you all tomorrow!

Charles

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

My new book, Angel with a Broken Wing is now for sale on Amazon!

 

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Listen to the Phicklephilly podcast LIVE on Spotify!

Instagram: @phicklephilly    Facebook: phicklephilly    Twitter: @phicklephilly