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Reward, motivation, and emotion systems associated with early-stage intense romantic love.

Journal of Neurophysiology

Time Factors, Adolescent, Reward, Questionnaires, Photic Stimulation, blood, Oxygen, Motivation, Male, methods, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Love, Interviews as Topic, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, Humans, Functional Laterality, Female, physiology, Emotions, Brain Mapping, blood supply, anatomy & histology, Brain, Adult

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      Abstract

      Early-stage romantic love can induce euphoria, is a cross-cultural phenomenon, and is possibly a developed form of a mammalian drive to pursue preferred mates. It has an important influence on social behaviors that have reproductive and genetic consequences. To determine which reward and motivation systems may be involved, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging and studied 10 women and 7 men who were intensely "in love" from 1 to 17 mo. Participants alternately viewed a photograph of their beloved and a photograph of a familiar individual, interspersed with a distraction-attention task. Group activation specific to the beloved under the two control conditions occurred in dopamine-rich areas associated with mammalian reward and motivation, namely the right ventral tegmental area and the right postero-dorsal body and medial caudate nucleus. Activation in the left ventral tegmental area was correlated with facial attractiveness scores. Activation in the right anteromedial caudate was correlated with questionnaire scores that quantified intensity of romantic passion. In the left insula-putamen-globus pallidus, activation correlated with trait affect intensity. The results suggest that romantic love uses subcortical reward and motivation systems to focus on a specific individual, that limbic cortical regions process individual emotion factors, and that there is localization heterogeneity for reward functions in the human brain.

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            Author and article information

            Journal
            10.1152/jn.00838.2004
            15928068

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