Love On The Brain

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From: Antoun Nabhan (
Date: Mon Nov 13 2000 - 10:44:19 PST

I really like the love<->cocaine connection in here. Last night I had to
work strenuously to prevent my girlfriend from sticking a french fry up my
nose; perhaps she had already read this article. :-)


Love on the Brain
New Orleans--Who says science and romance don't mix? Using high-tech
methods, researchers have discovered which parts of the brain help us fall
in love. The work, presented here on 7 November at the Society for
Neuroscience's annual meeting, shows that in some ways, love is like a drug.
       Scientists haven't explored pleasant emotions as extensively as they
have negative ones. Anxiety, anger, and fear, for example, have all been
mapped to certain brain areas in humans or animals. Indeed, romantic love
has been neglected in neuroscience, says psychologist Andreas Bartels of
University College London, United Kingdom--in part because of its
complexity and the lack of a good animal model.
       So Bartels and his colleague Semir Zeki recruited subjects who were
truly, madly in love. To verify this, they used the "passionate love
scale," a scientific, standardized version of a fashion-magazine-style
questionnaire. Eighteen grad students and postdocs--11 women and seven
men--scored off the charts. The researchers studied the lovers' brains with
functional magnetic resonance imaging, while they flashed pictures of
either their sweetheart or a close friend of the same sex and age as the
beaux. Seeing the object of their desire increased activity in brain
clusters called the insula, cingulate, putamen, and caudate
nucleus--regions, curiously enough, that also light up under
cocaine-induced euphoria, Bartels says. Activity decreased in other areas,
including the ones that are overactive in depressed people.
       The results make sense, says psychiatrist Israel Liberzon of the
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, because being in love is generally a
pleasant sensation. But he cautions that seeing a picture of a lover also
triggers more intense feelings than seeing a friend, so the brain scans
could be picking up general arousal rather than pure romantic love.

Antoun Nabhan
VP of Finance & Business Development, Arrayex, Inc.

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