Taking love to extremes

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: February 13th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The phrase “crazy in love” might be an even more appropriate description of falling in love than once thought.

Lovers from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to those desperate housewives living on Wisteria Lane have gone to extremes to partake in a budding romance.

Deceiving family and friends. Shouting sonnets and sending bouquets and obsessive phone calls to woo a partner. All may seem like rational behaviors when one is under the influence of new love.

Now neuroscientists have associated these impulsive actions with activity depicted on brain scan images… activity oddly similar to taking temporary leave of one’s senses.

Writing in the Journal of Neurophysiology, they say the pursuit of new love is a biological urge… one more akin to mindless drives such as hunger, thirst or a craving for drugs than to an emotional state such as excitement or to lust.

In fact, the scans show that areas deep in the brain that receive the chemical dopamine, part of the brain’s reward system, were activated by new love.

Scientists found new love is distinct from mature love. Brain activity associated with new love changes as the relationship matures, sometimes activating primitive regions of the brain involved with long-term attachment.

Researchers are continuing their study by analyzing brain images from people rejected by their lovers. So far they have found the heightened and disturbed activity occurring in brains of jilted lovers eventually settles down. Just in time for the process of new love to occur all over again.