Albert Einstein once said “How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?”
Well, Helen Fisher, Research Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the Rutgers Center for Human Evolutionary Studies may have found the explanation via fMRI. Her research team’s results show that “true love” transcends both culture and time, and may indeed be “explainable”.
From Science News Blog:
The researchers imaged the brains of 17 young Americans and 17 young Chinese who had been in intense love relationships for 6 months. The team compared how the volunteers’ brains reacted to a photograph of a loved one versus a photo of someone they didn’t know. When viewing a loved one, the brains of the volunteers registered activity in "several regions associated with addiction," said Fisher–notably in the ventral tegmental area, a region of the brain stem that are rich in receptors for dopamine, the chief actor in the brain’s "reward circuit".
The team also rounded up 17 people of both sexes, aged 40 to 65, married at least 20 years, who said they were still "in love" with their spouses. The researchers found that the same areas were activated in most of them on viewing a photo of their spouse. But longterm romantic love also stirred up brainstem regions rich in serotonin (see pic) and a chemical called vasopressin, which is associated with monogamy in voles. The upshot is that the long-marrieds have the best of both worlds–they are still in love, but the "the obsession, mania and anxiety" of newly-hatched infatuation "is replaced by calm," said Fisher.
More from Science:The Neurological Basis of True Love…
Image: Smoothed view of brain showing visual cortex fMRI data superimposed on an expanded view of the brain. The computer has generated an image of the brain where those areas on the surface of the brain that are normally folded inwards (sulci) are represented on an expanded surface as dark areas. The light areas are those that are normally visible. The areas of the visual cortex are shown in orange and yellow. Wellcome Images.