Syracuse University Professor Stephanie Ortigue has studied the effect of love on the brain.(1) Her study shows that when a person falls in love, 12 areas of the brain work together to release chemicals such as dopamine, oxytocin, adrenaline and vasopression – combining to produce a feeling of euphoria.
The study also shows that love is a complex process and – as we might have guessed – different types of love engage different parts of the brain. For example, unconditional love, such as that between a mother and a child causes activity in different parts of the brain to passionate love between two adults.
In spite of the differences though, the process of love always follows the same pattern – it works on the brain to enhance positive emotions (e.g.bonding/pleasure/reward ) and to suppress negative emotions, such as criticism and alienation.
So, love isn’t just the stuff of romantic fantasy. Love is real and not only is it important to us as individuals but also to our progress as societies.
But you already knew that, didn’t you…
(1) Citation: Stephanie Ortigue, Francesco Bianchi-Demicheli, Nisa Patel, Chris Frum and James W. Lewis, ‘Neuroimaging of Love: fMRI Meta-Analysis Evidence toward New Perspectives in Sexual Medicine’, The Journal of Sexual Medicine, DOI: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.01999.x
* meta-analysis means that they used a statistical method which combined a number of studies for greater accuracy.