Must Be Love on the Brain

Must be love on the brain? I already know Rihanna is belting it in your head right now as we speak! Love seems to be on everyone’s brain around this time of year with the lousy, but perfect cuddling weather, the finale of The Bachelor approaching, and oh…Valentine’s Day! Yes, nestled between the chaos of the holidays and the glory of spring is a wonderful, sugar-filled phenomenon called Valentine’s Day! Whether you’ll be celebrating with your ladies, with a special someone, with a whole lot of self-love, or with a cocktail of all of the above, Valentine’s Day should be about appreciating love in general!

For just a moment though, let’s succumb the idea of romantic love. If you’ve been in love before, you can testify to the flurry of emotions and visceral consequences that come along with it. If you haven’t, or if you’re not entirely sure, you’re certainly still aware of how much our societies and psyches revolve around it. For centuries, romantic love has been a topic that has perplexed philosophers, poets, laypeople, and scientists alike. So what’s really going on here? What is this amorphous thing we call love, and why does it hold so much power over us?

Meet Dr. Helen Fisher, the most badass researcher I’ve ever stumbled across. For years now, she’s spearheaded research on what exactly happens the brain when we fall in love. You can take a peek at her Ted Talk, which is sincerely one of my favorite Ted Talks in existence! But what her and her team did was take participants who were madly in love, and had them fill out something called the Passionate Love Scale – a questionnaire that measures how intensely a person is in love with someone. After filling out the questionnaire, the participants were thrown (probably carefully placed, actually) into fMRI machines so their brains could be imaged while they looked at pictures of their beloveds.

The results? Certain brain areas lit up when the participants were looking at pictures of their significant other compared to a picture of someone neutral. These brain areas include the ventral tegmental area, the nucleus accumbens, and the caudate nucleus…super nerd lingo, I know, I know. The point here is that those brain regions are a part of the brain’s reward pathway. And what does that mean, you ask? When we’re in love, it elicits the same rushes of dopamine we’d experience from receiving rewards like money or Nutella. In fact, Dr. Fisher’s research has even showed that the experience of being in love is highly comparable to having a drug addiction! The connection between these brain areas and love is especially evident in the fact that there was a correlation between a participant’s score on the Passionate Love Scale and the amount of activity in these areas 😱.

The implications of these findings are bigger than the stash of discounted candy I plan to buy on February 15th! Since love triggers the brain’s reward and motivation system, love is considered to be an innate drive or state of mind rather than a singular emotion. So rest easy if you feel consumed by love, or by the search for it – it’s simply part of your biology! Now that you know neurological underpinnings of love, maybe Valentine’s Day will be that much sweeter!


How are you celebrating Valentine’s day? Comment below to let us know!
Xoxo The Anjé Team 💖.

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