New Research Reveals Map of Love and Desire in the Brain for the First Time

By Sharon Moore on October 04, 2018

 Science shows that love is indeed a state of mind. But as to where exactly in the brain it is located remained to be a big mystery for scientists, for so many years. For the first time though, experts developed a map of where love and desire rest in the brain.

In an international study led by Professor Jim Pfaus of the psychology department in Concordia University, a complete map of the brain’s ‘love’ has been developed. And surprisingly, it was shown that love and sexual desire are in similar areas.

Upon analysing results from 20 separate studies that examined brain activities while the subjects went through a test that involved looking at erotic photographs of their significant others, Prof Pfaus and his co-researchers from the USA and Switzerland were able to picture out the map of love and desire in the brain.

What Brain Structures are linked to Love?

They found that two brain structures were responsible for the feeling of love and desire. These are the insula and the striatum. The insula is found in the cerebral cortex and folded deep within an area between the frontal and temporal lobes. The striatum, on the other hand, is located just nearby – inside the forebrain. As sexual desire progresses to the feeling of love, the two brain structures were activated.

Prof Pfaus also found out that love and sexual desire stimulate separate areas in the striatum. The area which becomes activated by sexual desire is also activated by other things that are generally found to be pleasurable such as food and sex. On the other hand, the area that is activated by love is involved in a process of conditioning where things paired with pleasure or reward is given inherent value. This shows that sexual desire later on develops into love, and is processed in a different area in the striatum.

Love as an Abstract, Complex Cognitive Function

Surprisingly, the researchers discovered that this particular area in the striatum is also the same region that is associated with drug addiction. Prof Pfaus explained that this is because love is actually like a habit that is formed when sexual desire is rewarded. This process works very much the same with drug addiction.

While love can be a habit, it isn’t a bad one, the researchers pointed out. Love activates several pathways in the brain which are involved in pair bonding and monogamy. There are areas that were less active when a person feels love than when they experience sexual desire.

As Prof Pfaus puts it – ‘love is more abstract and complex’. It isn’t like a sexual desire that has a very specific goal. This is why love is less dependent on one’s physical appearance. He added that cognitive neuroscience has provided a deeper insight on where intelligence and problem-solving sit in the brain, but when it comes to love, more studies must be carried out.

For the researchers, their findings serve as a cornerstone which will hopefully drive more research to show where love really is in the brain.


Source of this article:

I want to know where love is, Concordia University

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