Love is a well-known emotion, but how do you know when you’re actually in love? A recent study carried out on 100 males and females states an MRI scan can actually determine whether or not you are in love. The study illustrated that an MRI shows that the areas of our brain most associated with reward, motivation, emotion and social functioning have the highest activity when you are in love.
Sure, there are different types of love, but this study looks specifically at romantic love – people who are in love, people who have just gone through break-ups and people who aren’t currently “in love” took part. As with anything, there is a neurological basis for being in love and with several studies looking at the brain patterns of those who claim to be in love, the topic seems to be one of increasing interest to psychologists.
The participants of this particular study were divided into three groups: “in-love”, “ended love” and “single” and were all healthy and of the same age groups and education backgrounds. A functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan was used to gain an image of each brain’s architecture by examining the participant’s brain as they were thinking about nothing in particular. The scans work by allowing the researcher to see which areas light up as hormones such as dopamine, oxytocin and vasopressin flow to different parts of the brain at different rates. Compared to other groups, the “in-love” group showed increased activity in the areas of the brain most associated with reward, motivation, emotion and social functioning with the participants who had been in love the longest showing a greater activity increase than those who were newly in love.
Whilst being incredibly interesting, this study, amongst the others in this field, does have its limitations and credibility issues. The study allows us to see the underlying neurophysiological mechanism associated with falling in love, but many more studies will need to be carried out before we fully understand the emotion.