Love me long
There is a definite hormonal and neurochemical pattern to romantic love. This is the physical reality that underlies the gooey eyes, soppy expression, and unique behaviour that we term â€œfalling in loveâ€. It has been well established in research and documented in this news service that these changes tend to wane after nine or twelve months. This is disappointing news for those of a romantic bent but now new research may offer a glimmer of hope.
The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure brain activity in people who claimed that they were still intensely in love with their spouse after an average of 21 years marriage.
In the study the subjects viewed images of the face of their spouse, a close friend, a familiar acquaintance, and a stranger. The MRI measured brain activity while they looked at each image. The results of this research were then compared to MRI results for people who had fallen head-over-heels in love during the course of the last year.
The results showed that activity in the ventral tegmental area of the brain, an area associated with reward and motivation, was essentially the same for those who had been in love for twenty years as for those in the first flush of love.
According to the researchers this suggests that there might be some specific brain mechanisms that can sustain romantic love in long term relationships.
Other interesting findings from the study include that greater closeness with a partner was also associated with more activity in the parts of the brain that are associated with awareness (the middle insula and anterior cingulated cortex). It was also found that more sexual activity was linked to more activity in the posterior hippocampus which is an area of the brain involved in hunger, obsession, and early stage love.
However you slice the brain results though, this is good news for romantics everywhere; being madly in love can last a lifetime.