Friday, January 7, 2011

According to the Brain: Love is Love

Gay or straight, female or male -- the brain activity connected to romantic love is the same.

A new study out of UCLA shows that love doesn't discriminate... at least not when it comes to brain activity.  In the study, 24 volunteers were connected to an fMRI machine and asked to look at pictures of their sweethearts.  They were then shown pictures of people of the same gender as their partner, but no romantic connection was shown.

The participants ranged in age from 19 to 47, and the study was conducted half and half between men and women, some gay some straight.  The common denominator was that all reported to be very much in love with their partner.

Measurement results showed that all groups had an identical pattern of activity in the brain.  Especially active areas were the hypothalamus, the ventral tegmental area, caudate nucleus and putamen -- areas of intense neurotransmitter activity stimulated by dopamine.

Dopamine has varying degrees of significance in the regulation of emotions, and how we relate to others. Love not only enhances the activity in key areas of the brain, but it also disables most of the cerebral cortex.  Among the areas which calm down when you look at your significant other, are sections of the temporal lobe, parietal lobe and frontal lobe.

According to Professor Semir Zeki, one of the researchers behind the study, "Passionate romantic love is usually triggered by something visually, and is an immersive and disorienting state.  Previous studies have shown that no matter how complex this feeling is, it appeals only to a few areas in the brain.

This enabled Zeki and his colleagues to conclude that it would be easy to spot any differences between gender or sexual orientation -- differences they did not find.

Yet another example, thanks to modern science, that the brain sets sexual orientation, and that the romance experienced in same-sex love is identical in strength and innateness to opposite-sex love.  According to the brain:  Love is love.

Ref. report on



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