Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Sheril Kirshenbaum , science writer and author of the recent book, The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us, sheds light on exactly what goes on biologically when we lock lips. Kissing basically “acts like a drug by stimulating the natural chemicals in our bodies, yet unlike other human behaviors, science has barely begun to ‘put kissing under the microscope’ to study this intriguing evolutionary behavior,” says Kirshenbaum.
As recently reported in that bastion of scientific journalism, the Huffington Post, “Our lips are packed with sensitive nerve endings so that even the slightest brush sends a flurry of information to our brains that often feels very good. Although we often don’t think of them in this way, our lips are the body’s most exposed erogenous zone. When they are involved in a passionate kiss, our blood vessels dilate as our brain receives more oxygen than normal. Our pulse quickens and our breathing can become irregular. Our cheeks flush as our pupils dilate causing many of us to close our eyes. Five of our 12 cranial nerves jump into action as we engage all of OUR senses in interpreting what’s going on and anticipating what may happen next.”
When there’s real chemistry between two individuals, a kiss sparks romance by triggering a cocktail of hormones and neurotransmitters that cascade through our bodies and brains! (Actually, that sounds kinda hot in a nerdy biochemical sort of way). Thusly (people don’t say ‘thusly’ enough), locking lips with our respective sweetie-pies serves as humanity’s most intimate experience because it conveys more than our words can possibly express. It’s nature’s ultimate litmus test telling us when to pursue a deeper connection with someone special or to step back because we’re incompatible with a partner.
And understanding the science behind how this happens doesn’t take any magic out of the moment. Well, not for me at any rate. Instead, it provides a better understanding and appreciation of our ourselves and our relationships.
So in this super-smoochy lovey-dovey ‘food tastes better when I’m with you’ time of year, let us not forget to blow kisses to the Sheril Kiershembaums of the world who remind us that, like the wonder of a kiss, science is indeed all around us.
 Ms. Kiershenbaum is also Director of the University of Texas Project on Energy Communication (or as she puts it, “communicating science to a nation watching reality television”) and appeared last year as a speaker at TEDGlobal 2011.