It stands to reason that the biochemical cascade involved when a person experiences love, gives a feeling of well-being and drive.

Studies in neuroscience have involved chemicals that are present in the brain and might be involved when people experience love. These chemicals include: nerve growth factor, testosterone, estrogen, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin, and vasopressin. Adequate brain levels of testosterone seem important for both human male and female sexual behavior. Dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are more commonly found during the attraction phase of a relationship. Oxytocin and vasopressin seemed to be more closely linked to long term bonding and relationships characterized by strong attachments.


Romantic and maternal love are highly rewarding experiences. Both are linked to the perpetuation of the species and therefore have a closely linked biological function of crucial evolutionary importance. 1

There's a lot of research about romantic love and parent/child love. Apparently there are correlations, between the neurological patterns observed with romantic and maternal love.

I am wondering, do we know what the neurobiological differences are between romantic, maternal/paternal, platonic love and the love of non-human entities for example a pet?

1. The neurobiology of love S. Zeki* University College, Department of Anatomy, Gower Street, London WCIE 6BT, United Kingdom

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    $\begingroup$ As a side note, I despise the fact that English only has one word for love. Sanskrit has 96 words for love, ancient Persian has 80, Greek had at least three, and English only one..... $\endgroup$ – user3433 Aug 25 '13 at 18:37
  • $\begingroup$ Related: psychology.stackexchange.com/q/24789/7604 as lack of loving attention for a baby can lead to death. $\endgroup$ – Chris Rogers Oct 20 '20 at 7:45

It is very difficult to offer a response in the sense proposed, different researchers may have very different views. One of the keys in these research is to have clear differences between: attachment, attraction, sexual behavior, esthetics (philosophical theme), likes, interests, and very huge etc.

One can begin by reading Neil R. Carlson's chapter about reproductive behavior (Carlson, pp. 319-366) which addresses both hormonal and neural control of sexual behavior as well as maternal behavior from basic and general psychophysiological approaches.

  • $\begingroup$ thanks for this answer. It's very true, how does one differentiate? Any chance you want to insert any relevant snippets from the text? $\endgroup$ – user10932 May 19 '17 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ Absolutely. Could add a bit about how operational definitions of these types of "love" are integral to how we define the presence or absence of differences? Here is a CogSci question about it. $\endgroup$ – mflo-ByeSE May 19 '17 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ I can not make these differences, in the end it depends on the researcher's approach. I would do personally, in the case of focusing any type of research on the subject of love, is to search the databases' thesaurus for the related terms or topics categorized by areas or disciplines (Psychobiology, neuropsychology, individual differences...Is in the subject of individual differences when I first saw studies on the topic of love, and rightly so). $\endgroup$ – hexadecimal May 19 '17 at 16:15
  • $\begingroup$ @hexadecimal you could still add some snippets from the text, it would bring value to the answer $\endgroup$ – user10932 May 19 '17 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ What text do you mean, Carlson's text? Carlson's text does not speak at all of romantic love, it only offers support to my argument in that it addresses only psychobiological issues, I recommend it to start looking for an answer in a supposed research, in the text of Zeky romantic love appears "linked" to complex emotional processes .... although in both types of love we will find emotions and psychobiology that's why I said that it depends on the approach. $\endgroup$ – hexadecimal May 19 '17 at 18:39

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