The results of our first study
Findings from our brain-mapping studies.
Interestingly, the degree of passion that our participants reported that they felt actually correlated with the degree of their activity in a few important brain regions. In short, what these subjects said they felt was an accurate report of what was actually happening in their brain! Self-reports are a cornerstone of study in the field of psychology, but they have always been hindered by the rather obvious question, “How do you know your subjects are telling the truth?”
Curiously, our participants all showed a deactivation in the amygdala: when lovers looked at their sweetheart neural activity was less here than when they looked at the Neutral face. The amygdala plays a significant role in generating fear and anger. Is this why lovers often appear fearless when facing dire obstacles to their romance? This bungee jumper is pretty fearless! Her amygdala may be DE-activated when she jumps!
All the lovers in our experiment used their cerebral cortex as they thought about their partner. Cortical areas linked with emotion became active, too. But these brain regions varied from one participant to the next, as you would expect. No two people have the same personality; no two share the same memories, hopes and dreams; no two romances are exactly alike.
The people we scanned in this study had been in love between 1 and 17 months. Could the duration of one’s romance make a difference in their brain activity? We needed to know because a study done by another group of scientists had shown activation in some different brain areas from ours, and the participants in that study had been in love an average to 2.4 years, much longer than our participants.
“Parting is all we need to know of hell.” Emily Dickinson got it right. Almost no one in the world escapes the feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, fear and fury that rejection can create. Among college students at Case Western Reserve, 93% of both men and women reported that they had been dumped by someone they… Read more »
The brain studies show us that romantic rejection hurts just like physical pain, and it is like cocaine addiction. We have to treat it like an addiction and think of it like a broken bone. It will heal with time. It may even benefit from aspirin and other anti-inflammatoy medicines! It’s important to go “cold… Read more »
Psychiatrists have suggested that there are two general phases of rejection: Protest and Resignation. During the Protest Phase, men and women dedicate themselves to winning their partner back. Restless energy, insomnia, loss of appetite (or binge eating), and obsessive thoughts about the beloved plague them. Many sob; others drink too much, drive too fast, hole… Read more »
The brain’s reward system response was the same in Beijing as it was in New York. The ventral tegmental area was active. We are all the same at the most basic, reflex levels of our brains, even though we are culturally different. It’s Hard To Say ‘I Love You’ in Chinese It’s Hard To Say ‘I… Read more »
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 »
What about gender and sexual orientation? The quick answer – gender and sexual orientation don’t matter, at least not very much. We’re all the same in primitive, drive areas of our brains when it comes to romance and attachment. Two great researchers, Romaya and Zeki, have done a study to compare brain responses to a… Read more »
What an audacious question! Could we possibly predict, from a brain scan, who will be together four years later, after beginning with an intensely romantic relationship? Some psychologists have said that it is impossible to predict. Others have said that the more “romantically” in love you are, the more likely it is that the relationship… Read more »
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 »