Love is a Drug
February 28, 2006
When your brain experiences romantic love, it activates that same areas that are engaged when you seek any kind of a reward, be it money, food, or drugs.
A study examined 17 people who had fallen madly in love. Participants had been in love an average of seven months. They were placed in an MRI machine and asked to look at photographs of their sweethearts.
The part of the brain most strongly engaged was the one associated with rewards and pleasure, the brain stem region known as the ventral tegmental area. This part of the brain becomes active every time you want something.
This "reward" part of your brain sends signals of exhilaration when it feels that it is receiving the reciprocal love it desires. This implies that early-stage romantic love is a drive, one that is in fact stronger than the sex drive itself.
In good relationships, this early, obsessive stage of romantic love eventually transfers to a different level, called "attachment."