This Is What Happens to Your Brain When You Fall in Love, According to Science

Love at first sight is hard to explain. Some people swear they’ve fallen prey to its mystical power (sometimes more than once), while others chalk it up to folklore and too many viewings of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet (or reading Shakespeare’s original). We tend to gravitate toward the latter category, being the doubting, scientific-minded realists we are, but recently, we came across a fascinating study from researcher Stephanie Cacioppo titled Neuroimaging of Love: fMRI Meta-Analysis Evidence Toward New Perspectives in Sexual Medicine. Cacioppo (whose last name was Ortigue at the time) led a team of researchers who examined exactly what occurs in the brain when you fall in love and lust. Some crazy findings right off the bat? 12—yes, 12areas of your brain work together to release chemicals and hormones that induce the feeling of falling in love, all of which happens in just a fifth of a second, eliciting “floating on cloud nine” feelings similar to that of euphoria-inducing drugs (though there are key differences, which we’ll explain later). Yeah, we’ll let you process that for a second.

Because we found the study and science behind love so fascinating, we asked Cacioppo to explain everything in further detail for us—you’re welcome—and also reached out to neuroscientist and holistic wellness expert Leigh Winters for further elaboration on the matter. Keep scrolling to find out the science behind falling in love.