Sex before a date
scientists are shedding some light on the roots of romance in the run-up to valentine's day and the chemical reactions that make us fall head-over-heels in love, writes anna coogan
Love involves many parts of the brain and a complex interplay of hormones. It's much more complicated than a pair of false eyelashes and a freshly ironed shirt meeting on the dance floor.
Who we love is influenced by who we are -- our likes and loves, our character traits and the values we hold dear.
Scientists are looking for clues into what brings some couples together and here are the latest survey findings on what makes men and women click.
Today's young people have sex first, and date later, according to Justin Garcia, an evolutionary biologist with the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University. "I went to lunch with someone when I woke up next to them -- that's what dating is today,'' says Garcia.
However, this carefree lifestyle has its problems. Young people still forming their identities may be left more prone to depression and self-esteem problems if sex does not lead to a date.
Scanning for love
Medical scanning research looking for the source of love in the brain has been inconclusive so far. However, Justin Garcia believes scientists are beginning to take the science of love more seriously.
"Love drives people to madness. People kill over love. They'll give their lives over love,'' he says. "That's all pretty serious stuff, and scientists need to do more to figure out how it's affecting all of us."
Who gets your vote?
Studies show that conservative voters are the least likely to condone sex on the first date. They also have the fewest sexual encounters.
They seek out someone of the same political outlook, religion, values, attitude to money and views about marriage.
More liberal voters, on the other hand, look for someone with a sense of humour, a sense of independence, a similar level of education, mutual respect and someone who is comfortable communicating their needs.
They're also open to dating someone from a different background.
Making a connection
Like attracts like, yet there's also the argument that people become more alike the more time they spend with each other.
"The closer you feel to someone, the more similar your emotions will be," says Christian Keysers, a professor at the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands, and author of The Empathic Brain.
"As you get very close to someone, as you do in a romantic situation, or towards your child, the more you will share the emotions of that person. The more your two brains become one connected whole.''
Two-thirds of all couples speak "romantic baby talk'' to each other. Much amusement is made of Christoph Waltz calling his on-screen wife Kate Winslet 'Doodle' in the newly released film Carnage.
"It's about having something that's playful and unique to the couple, like a little secret language," Justin Garcia says.
Baby talk usually happens in a relationship before there are actual babies around, he notes. Research suggests that sharing fun activities within a couple floods their brains with the chemicals dopamine and serotonin -- heightening the pleasure and making them feel fonder of each other.
Women may demand roses on Valentine's Day, yet it's men who are the more romantic of the sexes, it seems. Dr Terri Orbuch, a US relationship counsellor, has carried out a study on the differences between men and women when they are falling in love.
"I was genuinely surprised by the number of men who were smitten with their wives long before their wives took them seriously. That's a pattern other researchers have found, as well. Women, in general, tend to have more pragmatic views of love."
Who says the heart doesn't actually break? The risk of having a heart attack is 21 times higher than average the day after a loved one dies, and remains four times higher a month later, according to a study published in the journal Circulation.
Grief is known to cause stress, anger, and anxiety, all of which can elevate blood pressure and heart rate, which can then increase the risk of a heart attack.