According to centuries of songs, love is a beautiful thing. According to science, it is a very real biological reaction. It’s known to trigger the same feelings as narcotics—desire, euphoria—and has long been studied in terms of its biological affects on the body. (See this guy’s heart beat as he proposes to his girlfriend.) But what exactly does love do the brain? Researchers from Southwest University, the University of Science and Technology of China, and from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, N.Y. decided to find out.
In a recent study, scientists hooked 100 men and women up to MRI machines. The participants were divided into three groups: those in love, those who recently ended a romantic relationship, and those had never fallen in love. In a resting state, participants’ brains were scanned to see if there were any notable differences. Indeed there were. (Previous studies had only examined brain scans of participants who were looking at photographs of their loved ones.)
The results showed that romantic love actually affects brain architecture—meaning the physical structures of the brain. Those who were in love had significantly increased activity in the areas of the brain associated with reward, motivation, emotion, and social functioning than those who were not. Additionally, the longer they’d been in love, the more activity in those areas they had.
This is a significant advancement in research, as scientists have not previously examined the resting-state implications of love, that will surely bring about more exciting discoveries.
Want more on love and sex? See the story of your sex life told through cookies, and check out these Valentine’s Day cards for grown ups.
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