Today is the St. Valentine Day, so I decided to write a post on the most universal and timely topic not only of today but of all the times… Have you ever wondered what exactly is occurring in our brain and body when we are in love?
Despite the complexity of love as an emotion only a few particular areas of the brain are activated in a person in love. This is a conclusion of experts from the University College in London who have been studying data received with the help of the magnetic resonance imaging of the brain of people, who were viewing pictures of their loved ones.
Being in love was a required condition for the experiment. Duration of monogamous relationship of all the participants ranged from 4 months to 23 years. The experiment was attended by 24 volunteers aged 19 to 47 years, 12 men and 12 women (6 heterosexuals and 6 homosexuals from each sex).
At the beginning all the volunteers rated their sexual orientation on a scale from 0 (which meant total heterosexuality) to 6 (total homosexuality). 12 of 24 people admitted being 100% heterosexual or homosexual. Others admitted some degree of bisexuality, regardless of the type of their relationship. In addition, volunteers answered questions from a special questionnaire designed to estimate the intensity of romantic feelings.
The results of the magnetic resonance imaging showed that the brains of volunteers responded to the photos of their loved ones in a similar way. At the same time both cortex and subcortical structures were activated. The most active areas were those producing dopamine. It is known that the effects of this hormone are closely connected with those of oxytocin and serotonin. All these substances play an important role in the regulation of emotions and particularly in maintaining good relations with people.
Previously some researchers had noted differences in the brain of homosexuals and heterosexuals, which manifested, for example, in the size of hypothalamus and in the degree of asymmetry of the hemispheres. However, those studies have been devoted exclusively to sexual attitudes, rather than to the romantic side of love.
Researchers have also found out that when looking at the loved one’s face many parts of the brain were disabled. Among these were the areas in the temporal, parietal and frontal cortex that are associated with critical thinking. Perhaps that is why it’s hard for a person in love to objectively evaluate the object of his love…