Love, lust and the science of attraction

7 February 2011

Dr Patrica Weerakoon discusses the science behind love and sex this Tuesday at the Australian Museum.
Dr Patrica Weerakoon discusses the science behind love and sex this Tuesday at the Australian Museum.

At the Australian Museum in Sydney this Tuesday night, Dr Patricia Weerakoon from the University of Sydney will deliver a talk entitled Love, Lust and the Science of Attraction in which she will elucidate scientific explanations behind love and sex.

Human beings believe they are in control of what they do and think, but if brain chemicals and hormones are taken into account, the explanations become entirely different, especially when it comes to love and sex.

"The romantic love, the in-the-clouds feeling, is associated with a spray of the chemical dopamine from areas in the brain associated with reward and motivation know as the ventral tegmental area and caudate nucleus," Dr Weerakoon said.

"Other chemical changes include an increase of norepinephrine and a decrease in serotonin. As dopamine levels in the madly-in-love increase, it leads to the lover's high of focused attention on the loved one, rearrangement of priorities, increased energy, mood swings, sympathetic nervous system responses including sweating and a pounding heart, emotional dependence, elevated sexual desire, sexual possessiveness, obsessive thinking about him or her, and a craving for emotional union with this one person.

"When a couple stay together they move through romantic love to attachment. The attachment phase is the comfortable-but-fewer-fireworks stage. Playing a key role in this stage are oxytocin, vasopressin and endorphins. Oxytocin has long been recognised as a hormone of parental and social bonding. What we now know is that it is also intimately involved in long term adult love relationships."

Dr Patricia Weerakoon is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Health Sciences, and the Director of the Graduate Program in Sexual Health.

The Graduate Program in Sexual Health provides flexible pathways for professionals to extend their expertise in this specialised area. The fundamental philosophy of the program is that sexual health is an essential part of overall health and well-being. The program provides a broad perspective on sexual health, addressing prevention, acute care and rehabilitation from the biomedical and psychosocial perspectives.

The talk forms part of the Jurassic Lounge series at the Australian Museum, which runs from February to April and features art, live music, drinks and new ideas.

Event details

When: 6.30 for 7pm, Tuesday 8 February

Where: Australian Museum, entry via William Street, Sydney

Cost: Australian Museum member $20, non-member $30

Bookings: Australian Museum website

Media enquiries: Jacqueline Chowns, 0434 605 018,