Now I’m not trying to disarm cupid but it seems everybody Wants to Know What Love Is. Inspiring musicians for decades love has now bewitched scientists. An fMRI study in 17 people who were “in love” was used to analyse brain activity.
The brain under a romantic spell:
The harder an area of the brain works the more oxygen it needs to function, the scan detects the blood flow supplying this oxygen. These regions have a network of neuro-transmitters and chemicals that travel the uncharted love web to generate romantic sensations.
Intriguingly, scientists revealed that this love web is part of the dopaminergic reward system associated with reward and motivation. This pathway is situated in the right ventral tegmental area and right caudate nucleus regions instead of the emotional pathway.
Dopamine wasn’t the only brain chemical to be elevated, oxytoxin and vasopressin activity increased in the posterior hippocampus. These elevations will create euphoric feelings along with a decrease in sadness, fear and anxiety.
It did result in other love struck symptoms, like partner obsession, sexual arousal and a decrease in pain sensitivity. Other regions of cognitive functions were highlighted such as self-representation and body image. The blood hormone cortisol also increased causing the individual to be stressed and alert.
Pascal stated, “The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.” The identification of a distinct network will help the advancement of “nothing” into therapies to target areas such as anxiety, depression, sexual medicine and couples therapy.