Can Brain Scans Predict Whose Love Will Last


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 will fail, because you are bound to be disappointed after a year or two.

Mona Xu dared to ask the question, if we could predict from a brain scan.  She had carried out a scanning study in Beijing of college students in the early stages of a romantic relationship.  A little over three years later she called the people she had scanned and asked them if they were still with the same person, or if they had broken up.  If they were still with the same person, she asked how satisfied they were with the relationship, and how committed they were to the relationship.

Then Lucy looked at the brain scan data that had been collected a little over three years before.  She compared the six people who were still together to the six people who had broken up.  She was not optimistic about finding any effect, but there were plenty of places in the brain that were different!!!

These areas were different-- and they showed DECREASED activity: parts of the prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens and a place called the subcallosal gyrus.  Even a part way back in the parietal lobe was different.

We concluded in the paper: "These data are preliminary evidence that neural responses in the early stages of romantic love can predict relationship stability and quality up to 40 months later in the relationship. The brain regions involved suggest that forebrain reward functions may be predictive for relationship stability, as well as regions involved in social evaluation, emotional regulation, and mood."

For more about what it means, go here.

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