- Scientific studies have proven that love has the same effects on the brain as an addiction or certain mental disorders.
- Research studies using MRI pictures have shown that love can activate some areas of the brain while deactivating others.
- Love affects the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, and serotonin levels drop significantly during the early stages.
Love can be a wonderful thing, but this is not always true. Scientific studies have shown that love can act like a drug, and people in love can show signs similar to drug addiction. Love can lead to obsession and depression in some individuals, especially if they feel the love is not returned. Love has several stages, and physical and emotional changes take place in each phase. Love has also become big business, with providers like eHarmony and others performing and using research on love. Dr. Helen Fisher, who works at Rutgers University as an evolutionary scientist, has done research on the subject of the effects of love, using MRI scans and other tests to determine what physical changes take place in the brain during love. Dr. Fisher classifies love as an addiction, because the same chemical changes occur in the brain with love as they do with drug use. The first stages of love can produce a high, and this can result in certain brain areas acting unusual. Risk taking is increased, a feeling of euphoria takes over, and the lovers can think of little else except each other. All of these reactions are caused by the limbic system in the brain, which changes the neurotransmitter levels. This area is what helps govern behavior, preventing obsession and reckless behavior, and love has the opposite effect and can increase this activity instead.
According to the research on love performed by Dr. Arthur Aron, who is associated with the State University of New York at Stony Brook and is a psychologist, the first passionate response will fade and another type of love will replace it. This is called companionate love according to Dr. Aron, and it is the stable bonding of a pair. This love is more stable, without many of the extremes that is seen in earlier stages of love. It can also be classified as an addiction as well though, according to Dr. Fisher, because it is also a drive which can be significant. One of the most basic human needs is to find the ideal mating partner so that the human species continues. MRI pictures studies by Dr. Fisher and other scientists show that the areas of the brain associated with reward is active during love. This is the same part of the brain that is active for addicts, whether the addiction is drugs, gambling, alcohol, or some other substance or activity.
Scientific studies on love have also been done by Dr. Lucy Brown, who is a neuroscience professor associated with Albert Einstein College of Medicine. These studies also involved MRI tests for individuals who are in love at the beginning. She published a study in the Journal of Neurophysiology in the July of 2005 issue detailing the results. The ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the brain becomes active, and this is the same part of the brain that is active during a cocaine high or high from some other drug or activity. According to Dr. Brown, this area of the brain is associated with the high feeling, or reward, and not the craving. In addition, other areas become less active, and these areas of the brain control impulses and behavior, as well as fear and other negative emotions. One study published in the Psychological Medicine Journal in 1999 showed that chemicals in the brain of people in the beginning stages of love actually are similar to the same chemicals present for individuals who suffer from obsessive compulsive disorders. Serotonin levels in love struck people are slightly more than half of the levels found in normal individuals, showing that the drop in serotonin may be partly responsible for the obsession with the other person.