Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

It's all in the head; new study shows how falling in love alters brain activity

love.jpg

It's a truth universally acknowledged that we do strange things when we fall in love.

According to Hollywood, we may start traipsing up a fire escape clasping a bunch of roses between our teeth, or hot-legging it around a ship for a sweaty rendezvous on an abandoned car deck. 

It's perhaps no surprise, therefore, to learn that being in love not only leaves us a hopeless bag of hormonal emotion - it also stimulates changes in our brain. 

A pioneering new study has found that a brain of someone "in love" is markedly different to that of someone who is not.

Scientists from Southwest University in Chongqing, China, pieced together a "love map" to pinpoint the physical effects of falling for someone on the brain. 

They pulled together 100 student volunteers and divided them into three groups; an "in-love" group, an "ended-love" group, who had recently ended loving relationships; and a "single" group, who had never been in love. 

brain

The "in-love" brain shows increased activity to certain areas of the brain

All three groups then underwent a brain MRI scan and were instructed not to think of anything when the scans were underway. The scans measured brain activity by detecting changes in blood flow.

The results indicated that up to 12 areas of the brain are involved in some way in the process of being in love. 

Those from the "in love" category showed increased activity in several areas of the brain, including in areas that deal with reward, motivation, emotion regulation, and social interaction. 

The amount of activity in some parts also positively correlated with the duration of love for the "in love" group.

For the "ended love" group, the longer they had been out of love, the lower the amount of activity detected in these areas of the brain.

And the "never been in love" group showcased the lowest level of activity of all in the same brain areas.

brain

The "never-been-in-love" brain scan

The results were published this month in the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience journal.

"Our study provides the first evidence of love-related alterations in the underlying architecture of the brain and the results shed new light on the mechanisms of romantic love," said Professor Xiaochu Zhang, leading the study.

He said the results may pave the way for "applying a resting-state fMRI approach" to test romantic love. 

In other words, one day in the not-too-far-away future, scientists may be able to diagnose when someone's falling in love. 

Hardly a poetic thought, but an interesting one nonetheless. 

Related

couple.jpg

The relationship habits that kill romance and jeopardise love

rexfeatures_4462376l.jpg

Robin Wright on on Sean Penn, love and Claire Underwood’s iconic hair

163925545.jpg

The 10 most common causes of relationship strain revealed

Jennifer Lopez divorce chat.jpg

Jennifer Lopez on divorce; ‘you feel discarded as a woman’

Untitled-1.jpg

Five words and phrases that trigger conflict in a relationship

jennifer.jpg

The Oscars Plus One; the best red carpet dates from the Academy Awards

Comments

More

Serena Williams had the best response for reporter who criticised her

"Are you serious?"

by Sarah Biddlecombe
20 Jan 2017

Married at First Sight’s Caroline reveals truth about marriage to Adam

Steel yourselves, romantics

by Kayleigh Dray
20 Jan 2017

Listen to A-listers narrate the history of Planned Parenthood

“No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body”

by Sarah Biddlecombe
19 Jan 2017

Wife Swap set to return with one-off Brexit special

What happens when a Remain voter finds herself living in a family of Brexit fans?

by Kayleigh Dray
19 Jan 2017

The 2017 Feminist Calendar: celebrate the sisterhood all year round

The future is female

by The Stylist web team
19 Jan 2017

Unicorn lattes are the new brunch trend taking over your Instagram

These healing concoctions are almost too pretty to drink

by Kayleigh Dray
19 Jan 2017

Will & Grace is officially coming back to TV and we can’t wait

NBC has ordered 10 new episodes of the iconic show to air later this year.

by Moya Crockett
19 Jan 2017

Men refuse to apply for jobs that use “feminine” words

They don't want to be "sympathetic" or "caring"

by Sarah Biddlecombe
19 Jan 2017

This new DIY divorce app vows to help you to ‘consciously uncouple’

Because there really is an app for everything nowadays

by Kayleigh Dray
18 Jan 2017

Rachel Court wants employers to watch for these abuse warning signs

A woman who survived being shot by her husband has shared a letter from her old boss, revealing the extent to which her partner controlled her life for years

by Kayleigh Dray
18 Jan 2017