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Love is more than just a kiss: a neurobiological perspective on love and affection.

I recently took a course on the benefits of functional MRI and PET scans in rehabilitation. I began to think about how else PET and MRI can be used and I discovered this fascinating article on love and the effects it has on the brain.

Neuroscience. 2012 Jan 10;201:114-24. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2011.11.017. Epub 2011 Nov 15.

Love is more than just a kiss: a neurobiological perspective on love and affection.

de Boer A(1), van Buel EM, Ter Horst GJ.

Author information:  (1)Neuroimaging Center, University Medical Center Groningen, University Groningen, Antonius Deusinglaan 2, 9713 AW Groningen, The Netherlands.

Love, attachment, and truth of human monogamy have become important research themes in neuroscience. After the introduction of functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET), neuroscientists have demonstrated increased interest in the neurobiology and neurochemistry of emotions, including love and affection. Neurobiologists have studied pair-bonding mechanisms in animal models of mate choice to elucidate neurochemical mechanisms underlying attachment and showed possible roles for oxytocin, vasopressin, and dopamine and their receptors in pair-bonding and monogamy. Unresolved is whether these substances are also critically involved in human attachment. The limited number of available imaging studies on love and affection is hampered by selection bias on gender, duration of a love affair, and cultural differences. Brain activity patterns associated with romantic love, shown with fMRI, overlapped with regions expressing oxytocin receptors in the animal models, but definite proof for the role of oxytocin in human attachment is still lacking. There is also evidence for the role of serotonin, cortisol, nerve growth factor, and testosterone in love and attachment. Changes in brain activity related to the various stages of a love affair, gender, and cultural differences are unresolved and will probably become important research themes in this field in the near future. In this review, we give a resume of the current knowledge of the neurobiology of love and attachment and we discuss in brief the truth of human monogamy.

Copyright © 2011 IBRO. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

PMID: 22119059  [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

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