The Science of Love: Romance Uses Same Parts of the Brain as Cocaine, Pain Avoidance

Love uses parts of the brain that also protect against pain, say doctors.

ByABC News
October 12, 2010, 4:44 PM

Oct. 27, 2010 — -- Love, as most people know, is anything but simple.

Scholars, poets, and just plain folks have pondered the meaning and mystery of love for thousands of years, but every definition seems lacking. For a decade now, scientists have focused one of their most powerful instruments on the human brain, seeking to understand the role that love plays in our lives.

Brain scans allow them to see which parts of the brain light up when a person just sees a photo of a loved one, professes deep love for another, or thinks about a relationship that has endured for decades. Neuroscientists around the world have learned much about the cognitive role of love, and how love affects different parts of the brain, so some real knowledge is being gained, but no one so far has claimed total victory. Sometimes, facts just deepen the mystery.

Consider these recent findings:

And Lucy Brown, a neuroscientist at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine, has found that "people in long term relationships who report they are still very much in love showed activity in the same area of the brain activated during early-stage romantic love." In other words, it's possible to keep the fire burning.