There are biological mechanisms to desire, love, and attachment; that’s abundantly clear” – Dr Andrew Huberman

It would seem that, for many of us, much of our lives revolve around desire, love, and attachment.

We understand desire, love, and attachment based on our personal experiences of them.

But do we know what drives them?

Do we understand the science behind what Dr Fisher and others refer to as three separate phases of romantic relationships (first desire, then love, then attachment)?

In his informative podcast ‘The Science of Desire, Love, and Attachment’, Dr Andrew Huberman explains how desire, love, and attachment come to be.

According to Dr Huberman, while there is no one brain area that gives rise to desire, love, and attachment, there are multiple brain areas, working together in different sequences and intensities, that make us feel we are in the ‘mode’ of desire, love, or attachment.

The circuits that lead to us experiencing desire and love as well as forming, maintaining, and breaking attachments are:

1. The autonomic nervous system

Our autonomic nervous system is automatic and controls things like breathing, digestion, and alertness. While it is already hardwired when we are born, interactions with our parents – be it playful, soothing, or even scary interactions – modify or alter it.

Think of the autonomic nervous system as a seesaw: we move up and down between being very alert (when we wake up, for example) and being very calm (when we are fast asleep, for example). Now, this seesaw has a hinge that controls how easily we move between different states. And the tightness of this hinge is influenced by our early parent-child interactions.

Sex drive and desire

Sex/mating behaviour is dependent on autonomic regulation. This is how it works:

  • In the process of finding a mate, there is increased activation of the sympathetic arm of the autonomic nervous system; dopamine and epinephrine are released.
  • Sexual arousal itself is driven by the parasympathetic arm. (If there is increased activation of the sympathetic arm, there won’t be sexual arousal).
  • The actual orgasm or ejaculation response is dependent on the activation of the sympathetic arm.
  • Following orgasm and ejaculation, there is calmness and relaxation brought on by the parasympathetic arm.

2. Neural circuits for empathy

To have empathy is to see, respond to, and match the autonomic tone of another person. For example, when someone you care about is stressed, you may either experience a state of stress yourself or go into a more beneficial state, such as calmness. Autonomic matching has to do with whether or not the state of one person drives the state of another.

The neural circuits for empathy are very important for falling in love and maintaining attachments with a romantic partner.

There are mainly two structures in the brain associated with empathy:

i. Prefrontal cortex

The prefrontal cortex helps us to perceive things outside us and make decisions based on those perceptions.

ii. Insula

The insula allows us to split our attention between our thinking and bodily sensations and the thinking and bodily sensations of another person.

3. Neural circuit associated with self-delusion

Delusion – more particularly – positive delusion is predictive of long-term attachment. Positive delusion (in this context) is the belief that only this particular person can make you feel this way; that only this particular person has the ability to stir within you certain feelings.

What ‘phase’ of your relationship are you in with your significant other?

Is it the desire, love, or attachment phase?

Would you like your romantic relationship to progress to the next phase?

Drop me an email at or WhatsApp if you would love to strengthen the connection you have with your significant other and take your relationship to the next level.

Let’s chat about it over a no-strings-attached discovery call. I have an entire toolbox of tools I would love to give to you.

From my heart to yours,


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