The Scientific American Book of Love, Sex and the Brain: The Neuroscience of How, When, Why and Who We Love


Praise for The Scientific American Book of Love, Sex and the Brain

"A superb exploration of that painful, intoxicating, and mysterious mess of emotions that we call love. Judith Horstman's lively prose tells all you ever wanted to know about love, and more."
Paul Ekman, professor emeritus, University of California, San Francisco; author, Emotions Revealed

"A wonderful book, filled with unexpected insights and practical tips. Judith ...

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The Scientific American Book of Love, Sex and the Brain: The Neuroscience of How, When, Why and Who We Love

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Praise for The Scientific American Book of Love, Sex and the Brain

"A superb exploration of that painful, intoxicating, and mysterious mess of emotions that we call love. Judith Horstman's lively prose tells all you ever wanted to know about love, and more."
Paul Ekman, professor emeritus, University of California, San Francisco; author, Emotions Revealed

"A wonderful book, filled with unexpected insights and practical tips. Judith Horstman's writing is fun and compelling. I highly recommend it."
Daniel G. Amen, MD, author, Change Your Brain, Change Your Body and The Brain in Love

"This wonderful and accessible book will definitely make you rethink what you thought you knew about love. It does an outstanding job making a tremendous amount of data about such an important topic easy and fun to understand."
Andrew Newberg, MD, coauthor, How God Changes Your Brain

"Isn't the heart the organ for love, while the brain is the organ for reason? This book wonderfully and engagingly summarizes how and why our brain plays the major role in us getting swept away by the magic of love and human connection."
Marco Iacoboni, professor of psychiatry, University of California, Los Angeles; author, Mirroring People: The Science of Empathy and How We Connect with Others

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This basic introduction to the neuroscience of love and sex is a good starting place for readers new to the hopes it will whet readers' appetites for more nuanced explorations of this area of research." (Library Journal, April 2012)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470647783
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 12/27/2011
  • Series: Scientific American Series , #3
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 694,111
  • Product dimensions: 7.20 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Judith Horstman is the author of The Scientific American Day in the Life of Your Brain and The Scientific American Brave New Brain, copublished with Scientific American. She’s an award-winning science journalist whose work has been widely published and is the author of four other books. Visit her Web site at

Scientific American is one of the most popular science magazines in the world.

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Table of Contents


Preface: Who Do You Love?

Introduction: What Is This Thing Called Love?

So What Is Love?

Love Is a Many Splendored Thing—and the Greeks Had a Word for Them All

The Basics Of Your Brain In Love And Sex

I've Got You Under My Skull: Love in Your Brain

You Make Me Feel So Good: The Pleasure Center

The Very Thought of You

How Scientists Research Love and Sex in Your Brain

Chapter 1: Born to Love: Why People Need People

Do You See What I See? How Mirror Neurons Connect Us

The Dangers of Involuntary Mind Merging

The Chemistry of Love

Love Is Everywhere: Where Love Grows in the Brain

A Brain Unable to Love: Inside the Brain of a Psychopath

Baby Face, You’ve Got the Cutest Little Baby Face

Chapter 2: Learning to Love

How Your Parents Affect Your Love Life

Love at First Sight: The Earliest Lessons in Love

If You Could Read My Mind; Moms Do

A Mother’s Everlasting Love

How Parenting Primes Your Brain for Love

Parenting Rewires the Daddy Brain as Well

How Father Love Feeds Both Brains

Postpartum Depression: Misery for Mom and Baby

Loving the One Who Hurts You: Why Children Cling to Abusers.

What If Things Went Wrong with That First Love?

In the End: Do Parents Matter?

Chapter 3: His Brain, Her Brain, Gay Brain and Other Brains

How Real Are the Differences?

The Five Genders of the Brain

His Brain, Her Brain: The Geography

So What Does His Have to Do with Love?

Our Changeable Brains

Some Myths About Male and Female Brains: True or False?

Toujours Gay: The Gay Brain Is Born That Way.

Can Animals Be Gay? Better to Call It Bisexual

I Am What I Am

The Third Gender: When Gender and Sex Do Not Align

Are There Asexuals Among Us? On the Possibility of a Fourth Sexual Orientation

Chapter 4: That Old Black Magic: Your Brain in Love

How Love and Sex Are Good for Your Brain

When Love Occupies Your Brain

Who Do You Love? And Who Loves Ya, Baby?

You've Got That Lovin' Feeling, But What Turns You On?

You Go to My Nose: The Power of Smell over Sex

A Kiss Is (More Than) Just a Kiss

You Light Up My Brain

What's Love Got to Do with It? Plenty It Turns Out—for Women

Need Some Love Potion? Try a Bit of Oxytocin Spray

I'll Have What She's Having: What Makes a Better Female Orgasm?

Does the Penis Have a Brain of Its Own?

When Things Go Wrong: A Fine Romance

Chapter 5: Friendship, Such a Perfect Blendship: Or: or: With a Little Help from My Friends

Is Friendship Declining?

Are You Lonesome Tonight? 60 Million Other Americans Are

You’ve Got a Friend––or You Should!

Widening the Social Circle

Imaginary Friends: TV Characters Can Ease Your Pain

Until the Real Thing Comes Along: Your Brain on Facebook

Work, the “Other Love” in Your Life

Can Animals Love? Yes, and More

How to Make Friends

Chapter 6: Only You Can Make My Dreams Come True: Let’s Get  Married

Grow Old Along with Me: The Marriage Benefits

You Make Me Feel So Good: Romance Lowers Stress

Finding That Special Someone:  Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places?

Falling and Staying in Love

I’ve Grown Accustomed to Your Face

My One and Only Love: Are We Monogamous?

Granny’s Got to Have It

Your Hormones May Drive You Apart: A Tough Pill to Swallow

Making Love Last: I Get a Kick out of You.

Can Pornography Help Your Love Life?

Love Will Keep Us Together. Lasting Romance Is Embossed in the Brain

Will You Still Need Me When I’m 64?

Chapter 7: You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin': When Love Dies

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: How Rejection Affects Your Brain

The Jilted Brain

After the Love Is Gone––You Ache and Ache  

Can’t Live If Living Is Without You: The Widowhood Effect

Achy Breaky Heart: Can You Die of a Broken Heart?

Ain't No Cure for Love––But Tylenol Could Help

Every Time You Say Good-Bye, I Die a Little: Why It Hurts to Be Away from Your Lover

Broken Promises: Can the Brain Predict Betrayal?

How Do You Cope with a Breaking Heart?

Chapter 8: For the Love of God

Searching for God in Your Brain

Epilepsy, the Temporal Lobe, and God

Strokes of Insight: Brain Changes and Spiritual Awakening

Religious Ecstasy Is Like Romantic Love—in the Brain at Least

God on the Brain: What Brain Scans Show

Could Religion Shrink Your Brain?

The Evolutionary Roots of God Thought

God Neurons May Be Everywhere

Chapter 9: Technology, Science, and the Future of Sex

The Wonderful World of Cybersex

Sex in Bits and Bytes: The Future of Virtual Sex Is Here

Chapter 10: How Can Love Survive?

But What of Love?



Illustration Credits

About the Author


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Interviews & Essays

Five Great Things Love Does for Your Brain

We're born to love, hardwired to crave the companionship of others from birth to death. And that's a good thing, because research shows that love—in its many forms—is good for our brains.

• Baby love primes you for a lifetime of loving. Love made your brain (and the rest of you) when egg and sperm met, and love from your parents spurs the production of the feel good love hormone, oxytocin, in all three of you, helping you grow a brain that is secure, adventurous and able to recognize and return love.
• Parenthood gives the brains of moms and dads a big boost. In addition to flooding parental brains with oxytocin, it contributes to smarter and more alert brains, the better to bond with, protect and care for a helpless offspring—it actually makes parts of the parenting brain bigger.
• Friendship may be the next most important loving relationship for your brain. Studies show the companionship of friendship helps you live longer: it can help lower blood pressure and inflammation, and thus heart disease and risk of stroke; and help ease depression and stress which research shows are connected with a greater risk of dementia.
• Sexual love —and orgasm— improves your brain increasing blood flow, pulse rate, and respiration. In short, it's a cardio workout that bathes your brain in oxygen-rich blood—and some really nice feel good hormones like oxytocin and dopamine. In animal studies it appears to prompt the growth of new brain cells.
• Love is indeed the cure. Love of any kind can trump pain where you really feel it: in the brain. Just holding the hand of someone you love lowers pain perception, and even a phone call from your mom can lower stress hormones. Love from others helps you take better care of your brain health, for their sake if not for yours.

And here's a plus: Love lasts - at least in your brain. Age does not wither desire. Studies of sexual activity over the ages show seniors (yes, that's your grandma) thinking about, wanting and having sex well into very old age, health permitting.

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