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

how the normal human brain learns and remembers and functions in general," Brown added.

Love physiology changes over time; 'Romantic love more powerful than sex'

Another breakthrough, Brown noted, was that "we found several brain areas where the strength of neural activity changed with the length of the romance. Everyone knows that relationships are dynamic over time, but we are beginning to track what happens in the brain as a love relationship matures."

Helen E. Fisher, a research anthropologist at Rutgers University, New Jersey, noted that not only did the brain change as romantic love endured, but that some of these changes were in regions associated with pair-bonding in prairie voles. The fMRI images showed more activity in the ventral pallidum portion of the basal ganglia in people with longer romantic relationships. It's in this region where receptors for the hormone vasopressin are critical for vole pair-bonding, or attachment.

"Humans have evolved three distinct but interrelated brain systems for mating and reproduction ?the sex drive, romantic love, and attachment to a long term partner," Fisher said, "and our results suggest how feelings of romantic love might change into feelings of attachment. Our results support what people have always assumed ?that romantic love is one of the most powerful of all human experiences. It is definitely more powerful than the sex drive."

Depression, murder/suicide, demonstrate strength of romantic drive

For instance, Fisher point out, "If someone rejects your sexual overtures, you don't harm yourself or the other person. But rejected men and women in societies around the world sometimes kill themselves or someone else. In fact, studies indicate that some 40% of people who are rejected in love slip into clinical depression. Our study may also suggest some of the underlying physiology of stalking behavior," she added.

Fisher noted that their study, which took barely an
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Source:The American Physiological Society


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