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Love's all in the brain: fMRI study shows strong, lateralized reward, not sex, drive

ht ventral tegmental area (VTA) and dorsal caudate body. These regions were significant compared to two control conditions, providing strong evidence that these brain areas, which are associated with the motivation to win rewards, are central to the experience of being in love."

Brown noted that "an important concept is that the caudate probably integrates huge amounts of information, everything from early personal memories to one's personal notions of beauty. Then, this brain region (and related regions of the basal ganglia) helps to direct one's actions toward attaining one's goals. For neuroscientists," she said, "these findings about the diverse regional functions of the basal ganglia in humans have remarkable implications."

"Our data even may be relevant to some forms of autism," Brown added. "Some people with autism don't understand or experience any sort of emotional attachment or romantic love. I would speculate that autism involves an atypical development of the midbrain and basal ganglia reward systems. This makes sense, too, because other symptoms of autism include repetitive thoughts and movements, characteristics of basal ganglia function. "

Surprise discovery: romance is on the right, 'attractiveness' to the left

Another important discovery, Brown said, was that "to our surprise, the activation regions associated with intense romantic love were mostly on the right side of the brain, while the activation regions associated with facial attractiveness were mostly on the left.

"We didn't predict such a striking lateralization," Brown reported. "It is well known that speech is largely a left-sided cortical function. But our data indicate that lateralization also occurs in lower parts of the brain. Moreover, different kinds of rewards (in this case, the "rush" of romantic love, compared with the pleasing experience of looking at a pretty or handsome face) is also lateralized. These results give us a lot to think about
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Source:The American Physiological Society


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