Friday, February 13, 2009
Happy Valentine's Eve. Some excerpts (with some slight edits) from this article from mcmanweb, The Brain in Love and Lust:
In a study published in 2002, anthropologist Helen Fisher PhD of Rutgers University and a multi-disciplinary team of experts recruited 40 young people madly in love - half with love returned, the other half with love rejected - and put them into an MRI with a photo of their sweetheart and one of an acquaintance. Each subject looked at the sweetheart photo for 30 seconds, then - after a diversion task - at the acquaintance photo for another 30 seconds.. They switched back and forth for 12 minutes.
The sweetheart photos, but not the acquaintance photos, revealed activity in a part of the brain that projects into dopamine pathways, central to reward and motivation. In addition, several parts of the prefrontal cortex that are highly wired in the dopamine pathways were mobilized, while the amygdala, associated with fear, was temporarily mothballed.
Dr Fisher divides love into three categories involving different brain systems: 1) Lust (the craving for sexual gratification), driven by androgens and estrogens; 2) Attraction (or romantic or passionate love, characterized by euphoria when things are going well, terrible mood swings when they’re not, focused attention, obsessive thinking, and intense craving for the individual), driven by high dopamine and norepinephrine levels and low serotonin; and 3) Attachment (the sense of calm, peace, and stability one feels with a long-term partner) driven by the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin.
Romantic love, Dr Fisher explained in a lecture at the 2004 American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting, is not an emotion. Rather, it’s "a motivation system, it’s a drive, it’s part of the reward system of the brain." It’s a need that compels the lover to seek a specific mating partner.
Love also hurts. Dr Fisher cited one recent study where 40 percent of people who had been dumped by their partner in the previous eight weeks experienced clinical depression and 12 percent severe depression.
Romantic love, Dr Fisher believes, is a stronger craving than sex. People who don’t get sex don’t kill themselves, she said. On the other hand, it is not adaptive to be romantically in love for 20 years. "First of all," she confided, "we would all die of sexual exhaustion."
In a related undertaking, Dr Fisher found evidence that romantic love exists in 150 societies, even though it is discouraged in many of them. But with many women from these countries now entering the workforce and acquiring a sense of independence - together with medical science keeping us relatively younger longer - we can expect to see romantic love on the rise worldwide, she predicted..
Bring it on.
Check out the complete article.