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14 February, 2007

The Science of Love

Something to think about on Valentine's day. This part got my attention:

While being scanned, the students looked at a photo of their beloved. The scientists found that the caudate area of the brain -- which is involved in cravings -- became very active. Another area that lit up: the ventral tegmental, which produces dopamine, a powerful neurotransmitter that affects pleasure and motivation [...]

When you fall in love, "exactly the same system becomes active as when you take cocaine. You can feel intense elation when you're in love. You can feel intense elation when you're high on cocaine."
Whoa, I guess I know what it's like to get high now without the health hazards. Except for the chance of getting my heart broken, of course. Eh, love is dangerous that way, we take our chances.

Here's another interesting thing: lust and love are in fact two different things.

In studies when researchers showed erotic photos to people as they underwent brain scans, they found activity in the hypothalamus and amygdala areas of the brain. The hypothalamus controls drives like hunger and thirst and the amygdala handles arousal, among other things.

In the studies of people in love, "we didn't find activity in either," according to Dr. Fisher, an anthropologist and author of "Why We Love -- the Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love."

"We now have physiological data that suggests there are different brain systems for sex and love," says Dr. Fisher.
Wouldn't it be cool if somebody invented a portable brain scanner that we can use on people we date? That way, we can tell if the person we're dating has transitioned from lusting to loving and whether they are being honest about it. It will so avoid misunderstandings, don't you think?

Then again, the study says lust and love do get linked at some point. Not that that's a bad thing, if it's what you both want.

Another interesting finding:

In the end, Drs. Fisher and Brown say what they learned from lovers' brains is that romantic love isn't really an emotion -- it's a drive that's based deep within our brains, right alongside our urges to find food and water.

"This helps explain why we do crazy things for love," says Dr. Brown.
I guess that explains Lisa Nowak's behavior. Crazy in love can become just crazy obssessed. Maybe the person inventing that portable brain scanner can attach a siren to it that goes off like, well, crazy when that happens.

(Thanks goes to my friend N. for forwarding this article.)

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posted at 7:06 PM by City Muse


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