Might as well face it…

| February 28, 2007

you’re addicted to love [*]:

A Wall Street Journal article surveying research on the neurobiology of love reports on the work of Dr. Helen Fisher. Love triggers the dopamine system which is also involved in drug addiction.

Dr. Fisher has studied love by looking at people’s brains using magnetic resonance imaging machines. A recent study also looked at 15 subjects who were deeply in love but were nursing broken hearts. While in the scanner, they viewed “neutral” pictures of someone they knew but for whom they didn’t have intense romantic feelings. Then they were shown a picture of their beloved.

Those suffering the aftermath of failed relationships have more than just the dopamine system active.

Compared with the neutral photos, a lover’s picture triggers the dopamine system in the brain — the same system associated with pleasure and addiction. But the brain images of those scorned in love also give us clues as to why the breakdown of a relationship can trigger serious health problems. The subjects dealing with failed relationships showed activity in the dopamine system — suggesting they maintained intense feelings for their loved one. But they also showed activity in brain regions associated with risk taking, controlling anger and obsessive compulsive problems. Notably, the scans showed activity in one part of the brain linked with physical pain.

The article reports on an Italian study that found that love causes the neurotransmitter serotonin to drop to the level found in those with obsessive compulsive disorders. Might obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) be a side effect of the brain’s tendency to fall in love? Do people who fall more deeply in love face a greater risk of OCD?…

Hat tip to FuturePundit, one of the best science blogs out there. ..bruce..

[*] Unless, of course, you’re addicted to spuds. Good luck getting either song out of your mind now; one of the great earbugs of all time.

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Category: Science

About the Author ()

Webster is Principal and Founder at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Brigham Young University. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at bwebster@bfwa.com, or you can follow him on Twitter as @bfwebster.

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