Making It Past the 7 Year Itch
I saw an interesting article regarding feelings of love and brain function. I found it to be rather appropriate, especially now that Valentine’s Day is around the corner. I have a personal interest in the topic as well. I always wondered whether old couples really felt enamored by their mates or whether they just get used to one another. I guess I’m cynical at this point but my guess is that the latter is the most typical case. This study gives me some hope, though.
According to recent research, romantic love can exist within long term relationships, even as long as 20 years. Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine compared the fMRI brain activities of couples who have been together a short time (average of 7 months) with those that have been together longer than 20 years. When shown pictures of their partners, the participants experiencing “intense” love showed activation of the ventral tegmental area of the brain. Interestingly, this is also the area that is activated by cocaine use and controls production of dopamine. Results were similar for all participants that reported feelings of romantic love despite the length of their relationship. The difference between the two groups is that those in long term relationships stimulated parts of the brain that result in calmness and pain suppression, whereas the short term relationships stimulated parts of the brain that result in obsession and anxiety. Further research will be conducted to reveal how life events affect brain activity. The researchers plan to follow new couples into marriage, childbirth, and beyond.
It makes me wish there were some way to know beforehand how long someone can “stimulate” that are of your brain. I’m sure most relationships start with long-term potential but over time and with repeated negative experiences they lose that ability. I think it has a lot to do with societal values we’ve adopted (or lost) over the years. Women and men haven’t reconciled their differences. Frankly, I think they should be celebrated rather than eradicated. Apparently, I’m not a feminist and I’m bound to piss one off somewhere… Oh well, I’ll save that rant for another day.
You can find the article here:
Filed under: Research | 3 Comments
Tags: biology, brain activity, dopamine, fMRI, love, lust, relationships, romance, Science, Valentine's