Love and the Brain

This article by Erin B. Taylor is a review of a TED talk given by anthropologist Helen Fisher in which she talks about the brain and its activity during love, or the downfall of it. As to be expected, she states that love is experienced in many parts of the brain, from higher cognitive processes to very basic areas of the brain. One of these areas is the ventral tegmental area, which is part of the “reptilian” brain, that is considered to be one of the earliest evolved areas of the brain, functioning for basic survival needs, not higher order thinking. The ventral tegmental area is responsible for the release of the dopamine neurotransmitter, which is the same neurotransmitter released during a cocaine high. To study the brain and the effect of love, her team conducted an MRI study of people that had been recently “dumped” from long relationships. She found that three centers were primarily activated. The first area is the area the same area that is activated during intense love, but in fact after a breakup it becomes more active, perhaps explaining why it is difficult to let go of. The second area is the “risk calculator” region, perhaps one is running through the ideas of what they did wrong, how they could have fixed it? The third region is associated with deep attachment, which makes perfect sense. To summarize, love is an extremely powerful thing that effects our brain greatly. Love is an addiction, “the God of Love lives in a state of need”.