In The Brain, Early-Stage Intense Passionate Love Seems To Be Universal

May 28, 2010
Brain
Credit: University of Wisconsin and Michigan State Comparative Mammalian Brain Collections and the National Museum of Health and Medicine

(PhysOrg.com) -- Close relationship researchers have previously found that Easterners (those from collectivistic cultures such as China) seem to regard love differently from Westerners (those from individualist cultures such as the United States).

However, since these studies were conducted with self-report questionnaires, are these cultural differences due to actual differences in the experience of ? Or just in cultural differences of how people talk about their experiences (e.g. cultural differences in modesty, reserve etc)? A new study published in Human Mapping (online publication date: 16 April 2010) set out to clarify this issue using a non self-report method: neuroimagining via (fMRI).

Xiaomeng Xu, Doctoral Candidate in Psychology and Arthur Aron, Professor of Psychology, both at Stony Brook University, with Lucy Brown at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Guikang Cao and Tingyong Feng of Southwest University, China and Xuchu Weng of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China, conducted the study.

The researchers looked at the brain patterns of 18 Chinese college students who had just fallen madly in love and were in the early stages of a romantic relationship. The students were placed in the scanner at the Beijing MRI Center for Brain Research and looked at alternating pictures of their romantic partner and an acquaintance they had no special feelings for (who was the same sex as their partner). The results of this study done in China were compared to results from a previous study done with American Stony Brook University students to see if there were cultural differences in brain activations for early-stage intense passionate love.

Unlike past research based on questionnaires showing , this study found that the patterns of were extremely similar for Chinese and Americans. For people intensely in love in both cultures, viewing images of the beloved elicited brain activations in the midbrain dopamine-rich reward/motivation system (a system closely related to drug addiction) including the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) and caudate.

The researchers also followed up on the Chinese participants 18 months after they had been in the scanner to investigate whether brain activations during the “madly in love” stage of the relationship predicted relationship satisfaction as the relationship developed over time. Activations in specific brain areas known to be associated with reward/pleasant feelings ( in the subgenual and superior frontal gyrus) substantially predicted greater relationships satisfaction 18 months later. This is the first neuroimaging study of love to examine follow-up data.

Explore further: Common infections tied to some stroke risk in kids

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Common infections tied to some stroke risk in kids

27 minutes ago

A new study suggests that colds and other minor infections may temporarily increase stroke risk in children. The study found that the risk of stroke was increased only within a three-day period between a ...

Celebrities in 'Ice Bucket Challenge' to fight disease

11 hours ago

Steven Spielberg, Justin Bieber and Bill Gates are among many celebrities pouring buckets of ice water over their heads and donating to fight Lou Gehrig's disease, in a fundraising effort that has gone viral.

Study helps explain why elderly have trouble sleeping

12 hours ago

As people grow older, they often have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, and tend to awaken too early in the morning. In individuals with Alzheimer's disease, this common and troubling symptom ...

Targeted brain training may help you multitask better

14 hours ago

The area of the brain involved in multitasking and ways to train it have been identified by a research team at the IUGM Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal and the University of Montreal.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Au-Pu
not rated yet May 28, 2010
This report is incomplete.
Would they finish it and then re-submit it?
frajo
5 / 5 (1) May 29, 2010
This report is incomplete.
Would they finish it and then re-submit it?

As is your user page. Would you re-register?
bredmond
5 / 5 (1) May 30, 2010
Living here in China, it seems they have a different understanding of the word Love. When i am talking to a girl, people say, "Do you love her?" and i say, "No, what in the heck are you talking about!!" and they say, "Oh, you seem to like her." and soon i learn that they are very liberal with the word LOVE here. Gosh, i only love my parents and brother. How can i love anybody i just met? Why waste such a beautiful word like LOVE when talking about some hot girl who catches my eye? How can the word LOVE describe a girlfriend of boyfriend? I prefer to say, I am really fond of my girlfriend, but that is just me.