Study shows the response brains provide to love indicates the intensity of the emotions the individual feels towards their partner.
One of the most overwhelming emotions an individual can feel for others is love, especially if it's romantic. Families are chosen by fate, but when people romantically invest in someone they do so out of their own volition. The choice is taken by the individuals using their brains and heart. However, does this phenomenon make any impact on those same organs? This question prompted several scientists to look at the neurological reactions in the brain when a person falls in love, per Newsweek. To their surprise and elation, they found out that an actual difference in terms of response does take place in the organs during this whole phenomenon.
"Romantic love is the basis for romantic relationship and family formation throughout most of the world," Adam Bode, a Ph.D. researcher in anthropology at Australian National University, shared with the outlet. "It is associated with some of the greatest pieces of art and music and poetry, and is responsible for the happiest and most despairing experiences of a people's lives." Despite the huge impact love has on people's lives, no significant research has been done on the topic. Mostly, it has been considered a natural phenomenon with little scientific basis. "We don't know as much as most people would think about the neuroscience of romantic love," Bode said. "There have only been about 30 neuroimaging studies of romantic love and many of them are simply replications of earlier studies."
Previous studies have shown that phenomena like social bonding and attraction are accompanied by a mixture of hormones such as oxytocin and dopamine. These hormones interact with particular areas of the brain to produce feelings and generate thoughts. The whole experience of "love" seems to be generated when neural activity happens with parts of the brain that control and monitor aspects like rewards, emotions, sexual desire and arousal, and social cognition, as well as memory and attention. Bode and psychology professor Phillip Kavanagh after analyzing these studies decided to focus on the responses produced by the brain. The central topic of their study was the brain's motivational circuitry, the brain activation system which was published in the journal Behavioral Sciences.
"Numerous fMRI studies have implicated reward and motivation circuitry in romantic love, but to date, only a superficial explanation of what functions that serve has been posited," Bode said. "Our study is the first to demonstrate that the behavioral activation system plays an important role in romantic love. Parts of the brain involved in romantic love that is believed to form the behavioral activations system generate thoughts and feelings which guide behaviors." The subjects for this study were 1,556 young adults who admitted to being in love. They were given a survey to complete whose purpose was to understand the emotional response, behavior and focus individuals imparted on their partners.
The answers were used to create a scale that showcased the impact a relationship made on the behavioral activations system (BAS). The scale was then analyzed to see whether the "intensity" of the response increased with the love people had towards their partner. They cross-checked the scale with 812 of these participants and found their hypothesis to be true. It revealed that the intensity of love is directly proportional to the response provided by BAS set up in the brain. Bode hopes that this research encourages more scientists to come forward and explore the molecular changes that occur due to love. "Considering the evolution of romantic love tells us not only the role it played in our evolutionary history but the role it plays in modern humans, it's a genuinely fascinating area of research," Bode said.