HomeGrown Humans - Helen Fisher, Ph.D. - Sexuality - Hosted by Jamie Wheal

HomeGrown Humans - Helen Fisher, Ph.D. - Sexuality - Hosted by Jamie Wheal

The Neuroscience of Love and Lust

Sexologist and anthropologist, Helen Fisher, Ph.D. joins Jamie Wheal on this HomeGrown Humans episode of Collective Insights. She was at Rutgers University and Kinsey institute, and she is the Chief Science Officer of match.com Fisher is the leading voice of how we mate and date. She shares the surprising insight that there has been no culture that aligns with how we ought to be and how we want to be in regards to relationships, romance and sex. She shares about her own relationships and shares why she thinks millennials are so smart with how they date in a method she calls slow love. They discuss:

  • The definition of monogamy
  • How jealously sustains pair bonding
  • A discussion on polyamory 
  • The health benefits of sex
Love matters, attachment matters, sex matters. It matters on a fundamental, biological, evolutionary perspective. -Helen Fisher, Ph.D.

Tune in to hone your dating and mating skills from the renowned anthropologist, Helen Fisher. Everyone is so individual in the way that they connect, and through education we can all create more loving and stable relationships that are better for ourselves, our partners, our families and our communities. 

Related Links:

Pre-order Recapture the Rapture: Rethinking God, Sex and Death in a World That's Lost Its Mind

Guest Bio:

Helen E. Fisher, PhD biological anthropologist, is a Senior Research Fellow, at The Kinsey Institute, Indiana University. She has written six books on the evolution, biology, and psychology of human sexuality, monogamy, adultery and divorce, gender differences in the brain, the neural chemistry of romantic love and attachment, human biologically-based personality styles, why we fall in love with one person rather than another, hooking up, friends with benefits, living together and other current trends, and the future of relationships-- what she calls: slow love.

Fisher maintains that humans have evolved three core brain systems for mating and reproduction:

  • Lust—the sex drive or libido
  • Romantic attraction—romantic love
  • Attachment—deep feelings of union with a long term partner.

“Love can start off with any of these three feelings,” Fisher maintains. “Some people have sex first and then fall in love. Some fall head over heels in love, then climb into bed. Some feel deeply attached to someone they have known for months or years; then circumstances change, they fall madly in love and have sex.” But the sex drive evolved to encourage you to seek a range of partners; romantic love evolved to enable you to focus your mating energy on just one at a time; and attachment evolved to enable you to feel deep union to this person long enough to rear your infants as a team.”

But these brain systems can be tricky. Having sex, Fisher says, can drive up dopamine in the brain and push you over the threshold toward falling in love. And with orgasm, you experience a flood of oxytocin and vasopressin--giving you feelings of attachment. “Casual sex isn’t always casual” Fisher reports, “it can trigger a host of powerful feelings.” In fact, Fisher believes that men and women often engage in “hooking up” to unconsciously trigger these feelings of romance and attachment.

What happens when you fall in love? Fisher says it begins when someone takes on “special meaning.” “The world has a new center,” Fisher says, “then you focus on him or her. You beloved’s car is different from every other car in the parking lot, for example. People can list what they don’t like about their sweetheart, but they sweep these things aside and focus on what they adore. Intense energy, elation, mood swings, emotional dependence, separation anxiety, possessiveness, a pounding heart and craving are all central to this madness. But most important is obsessive thinking.” As Fisher says, “Someone is camping in your head.”

MRI brain scanFisher and her colleagues have put over 75 people into a brain scanner (fMRI) to study the brain circuitry of romantic love: among them, 17 had just fallen madly in love; 15 had just been dumped; 17 reported they were still in love after an average of 21 years of marriage. One of her central ideas is that romantic love is a drive stronger than the sex drive. As she says, "After all, if you causally ask someone to go to bed with you and they refuse, you don't slip into a depression, or commit suicide or homicide; but around the world people suffer terribly from rejection in love."

Fisher also maintains that taking serotonin-enhancing antidepressants (SSRIs) can potentially dampen feelings of romantic love and attachment, as well as the sex drive.

Fisher has looked at marriage and divorce in over 80 societies, adultery in over 42 cultures, patterns of monogamy and desertion in birds and mammals, and gender differences in the brain and behavior. In her 2009 work, Why Him?Why Her?, she reported on four biologically-based personality styles, and using data on 28,000 people collected on the dating site Chemistry.com, she explores who you naturally are and why you are chemically drawn to some people rather than others. Today she is applying her understanding of brain chemistry and personality to business, specifically the neuroscience of leadership and innovation.

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1 Comment

  • Richard Powers, DC
    Jamie Wheal may very well now be my favorite host (though I very much also enjoy the physicist Sean Carrol of Mindscape)! Fascinating insights which are communicated with zeal and no-holds barred. And, Helen Fisher - what a breath of fresh air. Brilliant, authentic, extensive research, and more accolades than I have the time to express. Neurohacker Collective attracts some of the best minds and thought-leaders. Very much appreciate the NH team.
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