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The anatomy of romantic love

October 24, 2009


How many songs have been written so far on love and romance? How many poems? And how many movies have been made on the theme love and romance ? I know…What a silly question,no? Let me ask you something more sophisticated then..What is love?

Well, you asked for it & I have asked it. We are in 2009 (not in the romantic 18th century or late 60s), so let`s ask uncle google: “What is love?“. Here is the first link comes after entering the question:

`Love Quotations: “Love is...”

Here is an anonymous quote from that page “Love is like war: Easy to begin but hard to end.” As it explains love through war, it must be written by a Public Relations practitioner I am guessing, as they like explaining PR through war. 🙂

Well, I am a Pisces: the king of romance in the astrology world. But I am a researcher as well. So let`s try to answer that question about the definition on love depending on the anatomical studies done on the living brain. Shall we?

First of all, which organ is the symbol of love? Heart. If you are a teenager, even an adult, you draw a heart; for wedding invitations for example. When we were teenagers, we used draw hearts at least. These days teenagers do not need to draw heart, they can text it to the loved one…Being a brain researcher, my sentence is “whatever the question is brain is the answer.“ Yes, when we are in love, adrenalin goes up, we get excited, palpitations and heart became the symbol. If love is in the air, however, it comes from the brain. The exceptional concept romantic love is not an exception.

If you have a technology where you can investigate the brain of a person when he or she is living (more to come in the fMRI post) then you can also see which brains are activated or deactivated relatively in people who are in love.We have several methods/techniques where we can image the living brain when it is functioning; the most popular one? Functional magnetic resonance imaging.

When you go back to the very first sentence of this post; your answer will be zillions..maybe..but there are not so many fMRI studies on romantic love. I am going to stick with these fMRI studies in this post.

How can you plan a study to get your answers about love? Practically, not so complicated. All you have to do is to make the lover go through his/her feeling process in the machine (i.e. MRI). So you find pictures of whose are not familiar with the person, and the pictures of the one who is being loved romantically by this person. Then you see which brain regions are activated in the case where they see the pictures of the persons they love, relatively. That structure gets activated, this gets activated, the other gets deactivated..all relatively.

Here is the fMRI literature on romantic love.

Of these regions; they belong to a circuit (let’s stay romantic and say circuit of love; (copyright me)
and the researcher’s task is to interpret the activated regions and the circuit into function. I mean these regions belong to which known functions of the brain.
Which functions do you think?


Till next time we meet here @ this post, I leave you with the last scene of the most famous movie on love.

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