Battlepanda: The Science of Love


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Science of Love

Researchers at Yeshiva University have used MRI scans to investigate the brain physiology behind the emotional experience of love.

In a group of experiments, Dr. Lucy Brown, a professor in the department of neurology and neuroscience at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, and her colleagues did MRI brain scans on college students who were in the throes of new love.

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.

Dr. Brown said scientists believe that when you fall in love, the ventral tegmental floods the caudate with dopamine. The caudate then sends signals for more dopamine.

"The more dopamine you get, the more of a high you feel," Dr. Brown says.

The researchers, though, seem to have a bit of a sadistic streak.

Now their research is centered on the flip side of love. They've recruited college students who'd just been rejected by their sweethearts. Again, the scientists performed MRI's while these students looked at photos of the objects of their affection.

This time, the results were different, Dr. Brown says. The insular cortex, the part of the brain that experiences physical pain, became very active.

"People came out of the machine crying," she said. "We won't be doing that experiment again for a long time."