British scientists discovered the place where love is produced.
PHOTO - REUTERS
If you‘re a believer in the romantic myth that love is engendered in the heart, you‘re in for a disappointment. For the first time, British scientists have found proof that, far from originating in the bosom, the most powerful of all emotions is in the head. To find out what happens to the minds of the enamored, researchers from the Wellcome department of cognitive neurology at University College, London, used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of 17 subjects, 11 women and six men in their mid-20s. The device picks up increased blood flow, an indication of heightened neural activity, in specific regions of the brain. The team of neurologists discovered that four distinct regions of the brain were active simultaneously in what Semir Zeki, the head of the research group, calls a „unique pattern“ when the volunteers saw the image of their beloved. One of the areas marked by increased blood flow, the medial insula, is a highly connected cortical region with links to all the sensory centers of the brain. According to Zeki a second highly active area of the cortex, the anterior cingulate, may be responsible for the exhilaration people experience after they‘ve fallen for someone. Interestingly, the anterior cingulate is also known to react to euphoria-inducing drugs. But the blissful state of mind of the love-struck is not only a consequence of heightened activity in specific areas of the brain. It can also be explained by reduced activity elsewhere. Romantic love, it seems, is a natural antidote to the blues. While the London scientists had expected to find neural activity in regions of the brain important for the generation of other emotional states, they were amazed when they discovered that the areas involved in producing love were very small.