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Addicted to Love

Penning these thoughts before the recent Valentine's Day, your heart scribe felt the need to discuss that timely topic of love. Do you love your work? Do you love your spouse? Do you love yourself? You might just as well love yourself, because many of your associates don't, and often act on this lack of affection. A sage once said, "No man is truly happy until he's lost the last of his teeth and his desire for women. Many wives I know feel similarly, long before losing any teeth.

Having been studied in both animals and humans (and those of whom are neither, such as lawyers, accountants and dermatologists1 at tax-time) romantic love has a basis in neuro-physiology and brain chemistry. Lovers, at the least mention of their treasured one, are blitzed by invigorating surges of hormones and mood elevating neuropeptides. Even crotchety old codgers (see brackets above) become animated and demonstrate periods of sociability when aroused by the chemistry of love.

The average person falls in love six times over the course of his or her life, with most of these chemical assaults taking place during the post adolescent period. Older folk who fall in love say things like, "I felt like a 20-year old again!" bringing them back to the rush and crush of those all-powerful feelings of their youth.

The first cranial nerve provides the shortest route from the environment of the brain, and not just the conscious part but the limbic system -- our clearing house of emotion. The amgdyla (mood, energy, appetite, drive, sleep/wake cycles) and the hippocampus (memory and emotional recall) are part of this whole system and -- via the cortex and thalamus -- sensitive to all kinds of cognitive and chemical stimulations.

The sight, smell, sound or presence of the object of his affection will cause the old codger's limbic system to kick in with the hippocampus and amgdyla sending transmitters to the thalamus which in turn sends ever-larger and more complex neuro-peptides downstrem to the pituitary. Vosopressin, oxytocin and FSH (among others) are all released in abundance, which then feeds back to the limbic system to perk it up. Phenyethylamine, endorphins, serotonin and adrenaline begin to course through the body, creating surges of emotion and cutaneous hyperemia.

These chemicals have very powerful effects on the rest of the body, making the codger feel energized, phenomenal and extraordinary. No wonder lovers can stay up all night in all sorts of romantic arrangements. How can the old codger sleep, when hopped up on all kinds of stimulants and feel-good hormones. Even the next morning he greets one and all with an (until now) unaccustomed, happy smile. No amount of booze or exercise or pills can replicate these sensations. Lucky be the codger who becomes so ambushed.

Never under-estimate the power or love or be cynical or harsh in its presence. It's what makes the world go around.2 Thank-you, dear reader, for perusing this so far. And to all you graduates of MUN MED, may love smile on your face evermore and may you be a Happy Valentine.

1. Dear readers: on a personal note, I've never includes this sub-species in a diatribe and have felt the torment of it, until now.

2. It doesn't really but it's a nice thought.