Our Brains on Love

Posted on March 11, 2017

Photo: flickr

People say that being in love is akin to being on drugs. Research shows that they are, in fact, not wrong. The same regions of people’s brains are activated when they are in love and when they are consuming addictive drugs, such as ecstasy and cocaine. This is perhaps why love has always been described as a highly pleasurable feeling that may even be slightly disorienting at its most passionate, because it is a “high” of sorts. These positive, happy vibes we derive from love are a result of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Kayo Takahashi and his team of researchers found that there were surges of dopamine to parts of the brains of participants who were shown pictures of their romantic partners. These participants were all in the beginning stages of their relationships. Hence, love, quite literally, makes us feel good.

Our bodies do react positively when we are in love; most notably, recent research has proven that being in love improves our memory. It is necessary for our brains to produce dopamine to store long-term memories. Hence, when researchers gave people a shot of a compound which made their bodies produce more dopamine, their performance in memory tasks improved. Since being in love causes us to produce more dopamine, and having more dopamine in our system improves our memory-storing capacities, it makes sense for us to remember the tiniest details of romantic get-togethers and moments of affection.
However, this does not mean that we should start injecting ourselves with shots of dopamine into our systems just so that we can be less forgetful. In fact, too much dopamine in our bodies creates the opposite effect: it can result in memory impairment. The main difference between drugs and love is that the former causes an unnaturally high amount of dopamine to surge through our system, while the latter is a natural side-effect of love, and hence does not endanger us. The artificial surges of dopamine that we feel after consuming drugs have been known to drastically undermine our memory-retaining capabilities.

Memories are undoubtedly precious to us, but they are not perfect, and might sometimes be imaginary. Stephen Porter and his colleagues found that 41.7% of their participants had constructed false memories of events portrayed by the Canadian media that affected them positively and/or events that they found humorous. These people truly believed that these memories had taken place, when, in fact, they had not. This is not a sign of a faulty memory; such memory distortions happen to everyone. In particular, research has also found that those who have a trusting relationship with their partners will remember bad things they did in a less negative light, and vice versa. This means that trust affects the way our brains process memories of love, partly due to the complex nature of the emotions that arise in us when we are in love.

The relationship between love and memory is hardly a simple one, but what we do know is that according to science, love is good for us.

Category(s):Happiness, Relationships & Marriage

Source material from Scientific American

Mental Health News