Researchers studying the biology of romantic love have boiled it down to chemistry in the brain. They studied the newly in love, the long in love, and the recently parted. Brain scans reveal which areas of the brain are most associated with feelings of love:
- Nucleus accumbens - active in the broken-hearted, those in love who have been recently dumped
- Ventral pallidum - associated with attachment, active in those who are madly in love after twenty years or more
- Ventral tegmental area (VTA) - mad passion, associated with new love (this is a key reward area)
- Raphne nucleus - this area gives a sense of calm, active in longtime lovers
For those lucky people who are still madly in love after many years the VTA continues to light up, along with the ventral pallidum which releases hormones that decrease stress, and the raphe nucleus which pumps out serotonin, giving a sense of calm.
The bonding research is part of a larger effort aimed at understanding and eventually treating social interaction conditions such as autism. Meanwhile, it's interesting to think of all that activity taking place in our brains. For more information check out the article by Larry Young in the journal Nature for January 8 2009, "Being Human: Love: Neuroscience reveals all." Mary C