Spring fling fever: a seasonal illness

Chemical changes in spring can increase rates of hand-holding.

Cassandra Sundaram

If you or someone you know has recently been overcome by seemingly nonsensical quixotic or impulsive feelings of attraction to a certain person of interest, don’t panic. It’s spring-fling fever, and it might not be your, his, or her fault. Research suggests there are biological mechanisms at play in our brains and bodies during the spring, making us clamor for romance and yearn for new and unique experiences.

Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist and professor at Rutgers University, was interviewed in a Minnesota Public Radio News article last year. She explained how a rise in dopamine — a chemical in the brain triggered by new experiences — can help along the baneful blow of Cupid’s bow in the springtime: “There’s so much novelty in the spring. There is so much more color, new smells, people take their clothes off and you can see more of them. And so there is a lot of new stimuli that trigger the brain and drive up dopamine and make you more susceptible to love.”

Susceptible, indeed. I have seen too many of my peers succumbing to the symptoms of that L-word in the past few weeks: hand-holding, pinky-holding, the hands-in-other-person’s-back-pocket thing — which is the one PDA that I thought and hoped had finally gone out of style until I witnessed it firsthand last Friday — and even make-out sessions in the middle of construction zones.

An article published in Scientific American in 2007 noted that in late spring, peaks of “reproductive fuel,” are 20 percent above average. One of these fuels is luteinizing hormone, which as the article states “produces testosterone in men and triggers ovulation in women.”

If you, too, feel the urge to go out and join the hundreds of other species now displaying their genetic fitness with mating dances and rituals, you might want to do it soon, because we really only have a few months until our friend the Minnesota winter comes to visit again.