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Researchers were interested in one brain region in particular, the ventral tegmental area VTA. The VTA is of specific interest because it is a dopamine -rich reward system that has been reported in many studies of early-stage romantic love. The results of the study indicate that the feeling of intense passion can last in long-term relationships. This means that the VTA is particularly active for romantic love.

Previous studies have shown that activity in dopamine-rich areas, such as the VTA, are engaged in response to rewards such as food, money, cocaine , and alcohol. Additionally, studies have demonstrated the role of the VTA in motivation, reinforcement learning, and decision making.

This research suggests that the VTA is important for maintaining long-term relationships and that intense romantic love commonly found in early-stage love can last through long-term relationships by engaging the rewards and motivation systems of the brain. The results revealed many other fascinating findings, uncovering some keys to maintaining lasting love.

One thing that most couples wonder about is whether sexual frequency and interest can be maintained through long-term relationships. The answer is YES! The participants in long-term romantic love reported high sexual frequency.

The Pleasure Principle: The Secret to a Better Sex Life - Laurie Betito - TEDxMontrealWomen

And higher sexual frequency was linked to activation in a particular brain region. This area is the very sexy left posterior hippocampus.

Quiz: The Science of Love

Additionally, the results indicate that participants in long-term love, who scored high on scores measuring passion, showed greater activation in the posterior hippocampus. Prior studies have shown neural activity in the posterior hippocampus of couples who have recently fallen madly in love.

The results prove that the feelings of intensity, passion, and sexual desire, commonly found in early-stage love, can be maintained into long-term love. To understand how and why this is possible, we must first increase our understanding of the role of the posterior hippocampus.


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This is a bit tricky to do since little is known about this mysterious brain region. Some studies have linked activation of the posterior hippocampus with hunger and food cravings, with higher neural activity in obese individuals. We know that the hippocampus is very important for memory. So, perhaps this area is important for remembering the stimuli associated with certain rewards. Because the posterior hippocampus is related to feelings of cravings and satiating desires, this brain region can hold the key to understanding how some couples stay sexually interested and passionate in long-term relationships.

Romantic long-term love activates the dopamine-rich brain regions. The recruitment of this dopamine system, which controls reward and motivation, suggests that romantic love is a desire and a motivation to unite with another.

From Genius to Madness

Additionally, during long-term love the activation of the dorsal striatum, the area of the brain involved in motor and cognitive control, suggests romantic love is a goal-directed behavior. Since romantic love is a desire for a union with another, behaviors such as wanting to be close to one's partner or do things to make the partner happy, are enacted to maintain closeness and union. In the study, the IOS scores of the participants were positively related to the areas in the brain involved in self-referential processing.

This means that often closeness and union with another involves incorporating that person in our concept of our self. The results of the study uncovered some fascinating findings on attachment. The brain scans of participants show that the same parts of the brain that are active for long-term romantic love have been known to be engaged for maternal attachment. These brain regions, such as the thalamus and the substantia nigra, have a high density of oxytocin and vasopressin receptors.

Oxytocin and vasopressin receptors are interesting because they have been shown to regulate social behavior, monogamy , and bonding.


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Another interesting finding that emerges from this research concerns the body's regulation of pain and stress and its relationship to romantic love. The research shows that certain areas of the brain, such as the dorsal Raphe, are activated in intense romantic love.

The dorsal Raphe is involved in the body's response to pain and stress. Past research has suggested that the goal of the attachment system is to feel a sense of security. Research indicates that association with an attachment figure reduces pain and stress. What we can gather from this research is that feeling safe and secure is an important criterion in long-term intense romantic love.

Myth #1: You can hook up without commitment.

The research evidences a surprising difference between romantic love and friendship-based love. To understand these differences, we must first understand the distinction between "wanting" and "liking. The data suggest that romantic love is a motivation or a drive based on wanting, focused on a specific target, rather than a feeling or emotion. While long-term romantic love exhibits patterns of neural activity similar to early-stage romantic love, the study shows that for long-term romantic love, many more brain regions are affected than in early-stage love.

The brain scans reveal activity in the opioid and serotonin-rich brain regions, which was not active in early-stage love. These regions are involved in regulating anxiety and pain. This suggests that one pivotal distinction between long-term love and early-stage love is a sense of calmness, characteristic of the former. Additionally, the study shows that unlike findings for newly in love individuals, long-term love shows activation in the brain regions associated with attachment and liking.

As we have seen, liking is very important to friendship-based love. Likewise, increasing levels of testosterone and oestrogen promote dopamine release This positive relationship between elevated activity of central dopamine, elevated sex steroids and elevated sexual arousal and sexual performance Herbert ; Fiorino et al.

This parental attachment system has been associated with the activity of the neuropeptides, oxytocin OT in the nucleus accumbens and arginine vasopressin AVP in the ventral pallidum The activities of central oxytocin and vasopressin have been associated with both partner preference and attachment behaviours, while dopaminergic pathways have been associated more specifically with partner preference.

National Geographic. Retrieved 19 November The Journal of Endocrinology. A General Theory of Love. Vintage Books USA. Brown in Journal of Neurophysiology Volume 94, pages Retrieved 27 March Ortigue; F. Bianchi-Demicheli; A. Hamilton; S. Grafton July Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. Articles Related to Love scientific views. Evolutionary psychology. Altruism Coevolution Evolutionarily stable strategy Kin selection Natural selection Sexual selection Social selection. Psychological development Morality Religion Depression Educational psychology Evolutionary aesthetics Music Darwinian literary studies Evolution of emotion.

Wilson George C. Williams Richard Wrangham.

Biological basis of love - Wikipedia

Jerome H. Johnson Gad Saad. Joseph Carroll Denis Dutton. Simon Baron-Cohen Justin L. Barrett Jay Belsky David F. Kenrick Simon M. Kirby Robert Kurzban Michael T. Schmitt Todd K. Shackelford Roger Shepard Peter K.

Evolutionary psychologists Evolutionary psychology research groups and centers Bibliography of evolution and human behavior. Evolutionary psychology Psychology portal Evolutionary biology portal. Evolutionary biology. Introduction Outline Timeline of evolution Evolutionary history of life Index. Canalisation Evolutionary developmental biology Inversion Modularity Phenotypic plasticity.

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