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Guest blogger: Sue-Ellen Pashley

6 November 2016

sue-ellen-pashleyLove and the brain

The brain is a fascinating thing … or is that just me that thinks that?

In my other life when I’m not writing, I’m a counsellor (having done both psychology and social work). And part of my work that I really enjoy is looking at the brain—looking at why we do the things we do, make the choices that we make, feel the emotions we feel …

Which, naturally, got me thinking about love!

What happens in our brains when we are in the midst of a new relationship—when it’s all heady and exciting? As both of my stories, Aquila and Streamer, deal with young love, what happens in my characters’ brains when they’re with someone who ‘makes their heart race’? When Nick first kisses Grace? When Rhiannon first see Josh lying in bed and realises that she knows him, even if she can’t remember how?

Research done by Helen Fisher in 2005 looked at 2500 MRI brain scans and found that when people were in love (and looking at a picture of their loved one) areas of their brain rich with dopamine and norepinephrine lit up. Both of these are ‘feel good’ chemicals that are connected with excitement and activities that cause us pleasure. This happens in the ‘reward circuit’ of our brain—it feels good, so we want to keep doing it (which coincidentally also happens when we eat chocolate or do drugs). So essentially, being in love is addictive!

In early love—that exciting, butterflies in the stomach, everything clenching love—not only do we get the feel good chemicals but we also get cortisol, the stress hormone, which can lead to feelings of infatuation but also jealousy, envy and suspicion. And how often do we see that in the novels that we love?

As love continues to develop over the years, this rollercoaster ride of emotions settles. The passion can still very much be there but the stress hormone decreases (probably a good thing!). And because we still have the feel good hormones happening, love, which caused stress, is now a wonderful buffer against stress. What a beautiful thing.

You can find Sue-Ellen online here.


How can you disappear, only to appear in a new location, and not know how it happens?

How can you have any sort of life if you can’t control when this happens?

And how can you find the answers when you don’t even know your own name?

For twenty year old Rhiannon Clarke, the last three days are all she can remember. And they have just been a series of flicking in and out of different locations with only vague memories to guide her. But as she slowly starts to build a picture of her life, the questions are getting harder. Why is this happening to her? Why does the thought of her brother fill her with unease? Why does her father’s name make her break into a cold sweat?

And who is the mysterious man in the bed?


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