The science of romance: Brains have a love circuit
By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein, Ap Science Writer - Wed Feb 11, 6:15 pm E
In humans, there are four tiny areas of the brain that some researchers say form a circuit of love. Acevedo, who works at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, is part of a team that has isolated those regions with the unromantic names of ventral tegmental area (VTA), the nucleus accumbens, the ventral pallidum and raphe nucleus.
The hot spot is the teardrop-shaped VTA. When people newly in love were put in a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine and shown pictures of their beloved, the VTA lit up. Same for people still madly in love after 20 years.
The VTA is part of a key reward system in the brain.
"These are cells that make dopamine and send it to different brain regions," said Helen Fisher, a researcher and professor at Rutgers University. "This part of the system becomes activated because you're trying to win life's greatest prize - a mating partner."
One of the research findings isn't so complimentary: Love works chemically in the brain like a drug addiction.
"Romantic love is an addiction; a wonderful addiction when it is going well, a horrible one when it is going poorly," Fisher said. "People kill for love. They die for love."
The connection to addiction "sounds terrible," Acevedo acknowledged. "Love is supposed to be something wonderful and grand, but it has its reasons. The reason I think is to keep us together."
Kisses unleash chemicals that ease stress levels
By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer Randolph E. Schmid, Ap Science Writer - Fri Feb 13, 9:19 pm ET
Hill spoke at the session on the Science of Kissing, along with Helen Fisher of Rutgers University and Donald Lateiner of Ohio Wesleyan University.
Kissing, it turns out, unleashes chemicals that ease stress hormones in both sexes and encourage bonding in men, though not so much in women.
Fisher noted that more than 90 percent of human societies practice kissing, which she believes has three components - the sex drive, romantic love and attachment.
The sex drive pushes individuals to assess a variety of partners, then romantic love causes them to focus on an individual, she said. Attachment then allows them to tolerate this person long enough to raise a child.
Men tend to think of kissing as a prelude to copulation, Fisher said. She noted that men prefer "sloppy" kisses, in which chemicals including testosterone can be passed on to the women in saliva. Testosterone increases the sex drive in both males and females.
When you kiss an enormous part of your brain becomes active," she added. Romantic love can last a long time, "if you kiss the right person."