Can Science Prove You’re In Love?

This is your brain.
This is your brain on love. Yeah, I’m sure there are questions. Love is a HUGE emotion, it pulls information
from our senses of sight and smell, our experiences throughout our life and hormones are flying
through the body affecting our attachments our feelings and our reactions. All this is
driven by your brain; it controls everything you are. Scientists know this, so they wanted
to scan people experiencing love. Functional magnetic resonance imaging looks
at how blood is flowing through your brain to determine blood oxygenation, and therefore
what parts of the brain are working hardest. In 2005, the American Physiological Society
looked at the brain of 17 men and women who were “newly and madly in love.” Looking at
brain scans, they found activity in their brains’ motivation, reward and “drive” aspects
far more than emotions or sex. They say, “romantic love engages brain systems associated with
motivation to acquire a reward,” which is to say a match for reproduction and genetic
compatibility. That pairing elicits the emotions of euphoria and happiness! I.E. Love! But the question scientists kept asking is,
how does LOVE show up in your brain? When the APS researchers used fMRI’s on the participants
they found romantic love activated the right side of the brain, and activates areas related
to subcortical reward systems; while facial attractiveness activated mostly in the left
hemisphere. But a new study in Frontiers of Neuroscience scanned 100 men and women who
felt a range of love-related emotions. This new research found as love progresses, the
activity in the brain changes the structure of the brain itself. People who were “in love” reflected earlier
studies. Activity showed up in “reward, motivation, and emotion regulation as well as social cognition.”
On the other hand, the longer they were out of love, the lesser activity they had in each
of those areas! Being in love seems to change how our brain works and organizes itself for
everyday behavior, not just “love” stuff. This is the first time brain structures have
been shown to change for those “in love” and those who have “ended love.” Of course, this is just a cross-sectional
study. Ideally the researchers would follow the participants and see how their brains
changed over the years they were in and out of love. Knowing the neurological activity
behind love helps us comprehend how love serves to draw us to ideal mates for genetic and
reproductive reasons. But in the end, we’ll need a lot more information to know why such
a complex hormonal and neurological dance is performed. This new research mirrors the
way other animals seem to experience love, which might make it seem cheaper… but outside
of stories, movies and music… what is love? We’re still figuring that out.