Love May Start in the Brain

Dharma S Khalsa, MD Health Guide
  • It seems that there is always research being done on the brain, helping us to learn more about the brain and brain longevity. 


    In New York, some unusual research was done by Bianca Acevedo, a New York neuroscientist.  Her research concluded that love is in the head and not the heart!


    Acevedo is part of a new field in science that seeks to biologically explain love, and so far they have found that love is mostly understood through hormones, genetics, and brain images, according to a report from the Associated Press.

    "It has a biological basis. We know some of the key players," said Larry Young of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, where he searches for clues as to what goes on in the minds of those who love.

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    Acevedo, who works on a team at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, believes there are four areas of the brain that form the love circuit; the ventral tegmental area (VTA), the nucleus accumbens, the ventral pallidum and raphe nucleus.


    The VTA is believed to be a key reward system in the brain.

    The team saw the teardrop-shaped VTA light up when people newly in love were tested under a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine and were shown pictures of their darling.


    "These are cells that make dopamine and send it to different brain regions," said Helen Fisher of Rutgers University. "This part of the system becomes activated because you're trying to win life's greatest prize - a mating partner."

    The team also studied couples who had been married nearly 20 years and still participated in "lovey-dovey" actions such as holding hands.  Researchers discovered that the ventral pallidum and raphe nucleus both lit up along with the VTA.


    According to Fisher, the ventral pallidum is linked to attachment and hormones that decrease stress while the raphe nucleus secretes serotonin which calms people.


    The combination of those areas in action causes "a feeling of nothing wrong," said Brown.


    The researchers hope their studies could eventually lead to medicines that help troubled relationships, and possibly treat social-interaction conditions like autism.

    Brain researchers are limited in how much they can test the human brain, so they have turned to testing other mammals that bond for life, and believe they now have a better understanding of how to keep the love circuits lit.


    Love keeps your brain healthy - how cool is that? 

Published On: October 05, 2011