Love as sensory stimulation: physiological
consequences of its deprivation and expression

Komisaruk BR, Whipple B
Department of Psychology, Rutgers,
State University of New Jersey,
Newark 07102, USA.
Psychoneuroendocrinology 1998 Nov; 23(8):819-35


For the present purpose, love is defined as one's having stimulation that one desires. The nature of the stimulation can range on a continuum from the most abstract cognitive, to the most direct sensory, forms. Thus, this definition of love encompasses having an emotional bond with a person for whom one yearns, as well as having sensory stimulation that one desires. We address some of the physiological and perceptual consequences both of having, and of not having, love. We propose a neural mechanism by which deprivation of love may generate endogenous, compensatory sensory stimulation that manifests itself as psychosomatic illness. In addition, we propose a neuroendocrine mechanism underlying sexual response and orgasm. The latter includes vaginocervical sensory pathways to the brain that can produce analgesia, release oxytocin, and/or bypass the spinal cord via the vagus nerve. We present evidence of the existence of non-genital orgasms, which suggests that genital orgasm is a special case of a more pervasive orgasmic process. Through recent studies, the mechanisms and manifestations of love and its deprivation are becoming better understood. The better is our understanding of love, the greater is our respect for the significance and potency of its role in mental and physical health.
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