Scientists can confidently tell if you are in love. Using brain scans, researchers have become aware of the exact changes in our minds that are linked with the emotion.
Love has always been one of the greatest human mysteries. While the literature describing the feeling of being in love is infinite, till date, we could not exactly define what love is. Now thanks to a team of scientists from Southwest University in China, we may finally have an answer.
The team, having discovered the first evidence of changes in the love-struck brain, can now conclusively predict if the person is in love. The team scanned the brains of 100 students recruited from Southwest University in China and found clear changes in the areas of the brain involved in reward, motivation, emotion, and social interactions when someone was in love. The paper published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience explains the study.
“The results shed light on the underlying neural mechanisms of romantic love, and demonstrate the possibility of applying a resting-state fMRI approach for investigating romantic love,”
The researchers used resting state functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) for mapping brain activity. Brain scans of three different groups of students were compared. Thirty-four people noted they were in love for between four and 18 months, 34 had recently broken up with someone they loved and 32 claimed they had never been in love at all.
The scientists claimed they took due precautions to ensure the results weren’t affected by infatuation or some form of lust. Moreover, across the three groups, there was no significant difference in age, personal monthly expenses, family income or years of education.
During the scans, scientists asked the participants to think of nothing in particular. This way, the scientists reasoned, they could get an understanding of how their brains worked overall. Upon analyzing the scans, they found that those who were “in love” had increased activity in several areas of their brains, including the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, insula, caudate, amygdala, and nucleus accumbens, as well as the temporo-parietal junction, posterior cingulate cortex, medial prefrontal cortex, inferior parietal, precuneus, and temporal lobe.
The scientists were pleased to realize that in many of these brain regions, the amount of activity they saw, was linked to the amount of time someone had been in love. In other words, the longer the participants were in love, the more activity was recorded in these regions of the brain. At the opposite end, the longer the “ended love” group had been broken up, the lower was the activity in these regions.
Interestingly, these brain scans also showed that one area of the brain, the caudate nucleus, seemed to be involved in helping people cope with the end of a love affair. While it is a little early to speculate, detailed research could one day offer medicines that would help us cope or bounce-back faster from a break-up. The scientists did admit that they are a long way away from diagnosing if the person is in love.
[Image Credit | Elite Daily, Scientific American]