A discussion of the study results.

Our first study of romance: the reward system

Early-stage romantic love, lasting a few months to a few years, is associated with the reward system. It shares the systems used in the brain for a primitive drive like thirst. This may be the reason it is so hard to control, and so engulfing. It is not our fault if we feel out of… Read more »

The Caudate and the correlation with the passionate love scale scores

What does it mean that the activity in the caudate was correlated with the passionate love scale scores, but not the VTA?  Perhaps the VTA, mediating primitive “on/off” drives, may not measure love in degrees.  Maybe that is why when we’re in love, we are all in or all out.  The caudate, however, integrates much… Read more »

Just Another Pretty Face? Facial Attractiveness

What areas of the brain are signaling, “He/she is good-looking!!” ? One area is the left VTA. When you’re out on that first date, is the left VTA active in your date when they look at you? As humans, we have a standard of attractiveness in faces and bodies.  There is a huge amount of… Read more »

Time and Romance

Six things that are important to a long-term relationship We asked Art Aron, our collaborator and a social psychologist, “What are the most important things investigators have found that promote good long-term relationships?” His answer was, “I have six things to tell you!”  He speaks to us in this short video, and here is a… Read more »

Falling in Love: the striatum

One of our ideas is that the striatum (also known as the caudate) is essential for falling in love.  The striatum has been considered an executive area of the brain.  It makes decisions like Stop and Go.  It may make the decision about who to love.  All of our thoughts and feelings associated with romantic… Read more »

Sex is Different from Romance

We think that there are different brain systems for sex, romance and attachment.  Indeed, sexual arousal is mediated by an area different from romance: the hypothalamus; and fMRI studies show activation in the hypothalamus is correlated with erection size in men.  Sex and romance often happen together, but often they don’t, too. We had asked our… Read more »

Gender and sexual orientation do not matter

The VTA is active in romance no matter what your gender or sexual orientation. We are often asked if there is any difference between men and women in terms of what we see in the brain in love.  There really isn’t.  We were surprised at how similar men and women are, at least at this… Read more »

fMRI limitations

fMRI uses a signal that localizes changes in AVERAGE neural activity in 3 mm3 regions. fMRI has quite a few limitations when it comes to brain mapping.  The signal we pick up is not clearly one that reflects firing rate of neurons.  The signal is, instead, an average of metabolic demand over a 3 mm3… Read more »

Why Do We Suffer So?

Around the world, some disappointed lovers slip into clinical depression; others stalk, murder or kill themselves.  As the Swiss writer Henri Frederic Amiel put it, “The more a man loves, the more he suffers.”  The Tamil peoples of South India call this state of romantic suffering “mayakkam,” meaning intoxication, dizziness and delusion.  And Poet John… Read more »

Recovering From Rejection

Wisdom from brain science Throw out the cards and letters.  Delete the emails and texts.  Put all the mementos of the relationship in a box and bury the container in a closet if you can’t throw it out.   Alcoholics who give up drinking don’t leave a bottle of vodka on their desk. Remove the photos. … Read more »

Addicted to Your Romantic Partner

The brain studies confirm that love can be described as an addiction.  It is a natural addiction.  Maybe drugs like cocaine just hop on the natural addiction systems needed for hunger, thirst, romance and attachment. Indeed, the passion we feel after rejection shows all of the traits of an addiction. Foremost, like all addicts, recently… Read more »

Love Around The World

  Love songs, love poems, love magic, love charms, operas, ballets, plays, stories, sculptures, paintings, holidays, temples, palaces:  the world is strewn with the artifacts of intense romantic love.   Anthropologists have now examined over 200 societies and everywhere they have found evidence of this passion.   Romantic love is a “human universal.” Some still believe that… Read more »

Love and Time

For many couples, there is a precipitous decline in relationship satisfaction after a few years. The “romance” is gone. Attachment may be there, and the relationship is OK, but how can we increase relationship satisfaction in a long-term partnership? Novel and arousing situations increase dopamine, which increases activity in our reward system, and novel and… Read more »

Gender and Sexual Orientation

Gender and sexual orientation do not matter in romance. The VTA is active in romance no matter what your gender or sexual orientation. We are often asked if there is any difference between men and women in terms of what we see in the brain in love.  There really isn’t.  We were surprised at how… Read more »

Can Brain Scans Predict Whose Love Will Last?

We are amazed and excited to answer, Yes!  It may be possible that brain scans can predict whose love will last.  In a study headed up by Mona Xu, we looked at the early-stage romance scans of people after we knew they had been together for 40 months. When you’re totally in love in the first… Read more »

Newlywed Study

When someone says “I do” at a marriage ceremony, they are committing themselves to a long-term relationship.  We call this EARLY-STAGE COMMITTMENT.  They have probably gotten beyond EARLY-STAGE ROMANCE.  What could be going on in their brains?  What does commitment mean in terms of brain physiology? For the group of 19 people (11 women) scanned and… Read more »