Love is deeply biological. It pervades every aspect of our lives and has inspired countless works of art. Love also has a profound effect on our mental and physical state. A “broken heart” or a failed relationship can have disastrous effects; bereavement disrupts human physiology and may even precipitate death. Without loving relationships, humans fail to flourish, even if all of their other basic needs are met. As such, love is clearly not “just” an emotion; it is a biological process that is both dynamic and bidirectional in several dimensions. Social interactions between individuals, for example, trigger cognitive and physiological processes that influence emotional and mental states. In turn, these changes influence future social interactions. Similarly, the maintenance of loving relationships requires constant feedback through sensory and cognitive systems; the body seeks love and responds constantly to interactions with loved ones or to the absence of such interactions. The evolutionary principles and ancient hormonal and neural systems that support the beneficial and healing effects of loving relationships are described here.
By the end of this section, you will be able to do the following:
Explain how hormones regulate the excretory system
Discuss the role of hormones in the reproductive system
Describe how hormones regulate metabolism
Explain the role of hormones in different diseases