The brain is programmed to love

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The brain is programmed to love

“He is not able to truly love.” “She does not know what love is.” These phrases are everywhere – in social networks, talk shows, movies. However, from the point of view of modern neuroscience, they are nothing more than a myth. Each of us is capable of romantic love – simply because the brain is so programmed.

“When a person experiences a state of love, not the whole brain is activated, but only one of its zones, the so-called anterior islet lobe,” says Stephanie Kachioppo, head of the neuroimaging laboratory at the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago. – She is responsible for friendliness and altruism, helps to better understand the intentions of other people. Since all people have this zone, the feeling of love can be considered universal. Each of us is capable of experiencing it. “

Moreover, love and passion, which are considered to be related feelings, actually have a different origin. This is evidenced, for example, by the experiments of the American neuroscientist Lucy Brown and the anthropologist Helen Fisher: when we look at photos of our lovers and erotic photographs, different parts of the brain are activated.

Stephanie Kachioppo and colleagues found new evidence for this in an original experiment. A patient from Argentina with a very rare disease – he suffered from a stroke just the anterior islet lobe of the brain – was offered to consider photographs of 40 young (18 to 30 years old) beautiful women in seductive outfits and answer which of them attract him as an object of love and which ones are like an erotic object.

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For comparison, seven healthy men of the same age and nationality simultaneously passed the test. Both the patient who survived the stroke and the healthy participants in the experiment easily named the “objects of desire”, but the patient chose the “objects of love” with difficulty and much more slowly than the men from the control group. Thus, only his ability to love, but not his ability to desire, was affected by the disease: after all, another part of the brain, the posterior islet lobe, is responsible for it, the authors of the study conclude.

However, this does not mean that there is nothing in common between love and desire. “Our research allows us to conclude that love grows out of desire, it is an abstract (and therefore more complex) image of those pleasant sensory-motor sensations that are associated with desire,” explains Stephanie Kachioppo.

If the brain is programmed for love, why are there so many lonely people among us? “Loneliness pushes a person to seek love,” says John Cachioppo, head of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, one of the authors of Loneliness.

Twenty years ago, when Kachioppo was just beginning to explore the phenomenon of loneliness, it was believed that this was a kind of mental illness, completely devoid of any advantages.

“It seemed to me doubtful that in the process of evolution a state would develop in which there is nothing positive,” says the researcher. – Now I can say: yes, loneliness is disgusting, but it plays an important role: it is a signal that a person, as a representative of his biological species, needs to seek and establish social connections. Therefore, my advice is to listen to your loneliness. “

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Text: Alina Nikolskaya
Photo Source: Getty images

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