Love a matter of the brain, not the heart: study
Published Thursday, October 28, 2010 8:25AM EDT
New research suggests that when a new love wins over your heart, they've actually hijacked 12 areas of your brain.
The study published this week in The Journal of Sexual Medicine finds that falling in love has a lot more to do with the brain than the heart.
Prof. Stephanie Ortigue, a member of the Department of Psychology at Syracuse University wanted to better understand what goes on in the brains of those who are in love. So she and her research team analyzed the results of previously published studies of love illustrating brain regions associated with different forms of love.
"And what we found is that there are 12 brain areas that are very important for the love network in the brain," she told CTV's Canada AM Thursday. "So we can say there is a scientific basis of love."
Ortigue's team looked at studies that used functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to identify the brain areas associated with passionate love, and to compare and contrast it with other types of love, such as maternal love.
"We had participants who were passionately in love with their partners and we put them in the fMRI. We scanned their brains when they were presented pictures or names of their beloved partners," Ortigue explained.
The team found that when a person is feeling in love, the brain shows activity in the same pleasure and reward pathways that are involved when people are under the influence of euphoria-inducing drugs like cocaine. The brain also showed deactivation in areas involved in emotions such as anxiety, fear and grieving.
They also noted that these brain areas "lit up" a lot faster than one might think.
"What we found is that some of these brain areas can be activated in a fifth of a second when people are in love, and especially when they are passionately in love," Ortigue said.
Ortigue's team found that the neurotransmitters associated with love pathways could flood the brain well before higher-order cognition could recognize the face.
"So it says that your brain knows before you do that you are in love," she concludes.