Love is addictive – literally. Scans show that brain activity in those who feel the sensation of being in love are very similar to those who have a substance addiction. Both evince “the almost complete paralysis of the decision-making system.”
via Business Insider:
It is pretty simple, Brown explains. When you fall in love, basic impulses interfere with discretion, and there are chemicals released in the brain that affect perception and behavior. These chemicals have been identified over the past two decades, and their effects on mood and on mental states are now very clear.
The main culprit is dopamine. It is a hormone that millions of brain cells send each other in countless situations — from moments of problem-solving to threat response and the experience of pleasure.
But when brain cells release an irregularly large quantity of dopamine, very particular results occur: We experience euphoria and, in some extreme cases, hallucinations.
In fact, research that Brown and Fisher published in 2010 demonstrates that the way the brain reacts when we view a photo of a person we compulsively desire is similar to the way it reacts after using cocaine. “Falling in love is an addiction,” Fisher told ABC after the results were published. “My guess is that modern addictions such as nicotine, drugs, sex or gambling simply capture the same internal channels which were developed millions of years ago by the brain for the feeling of romantic attraction.”
Brown says it’s just part of the larger picture. “This mechanism is part of the compensation system that pushes us to romantic pursuit,” she says. “This obsessive and compulsive attitude that for the same reasons appears among drug addicts is maybe not good for the individual, but serves our human gender exactly like other impulses of mammals.”
Brown’s research suggests that between 10% and 20% of people in love are capable of staying in love for an entire lifetime. She discovered this when scanning the brains of people who said they were still in love and committed after lengthy relationships.
“The general belief in our field,” Brown says, “is that people who say they are in love after a 30-year relationship will probably fail the test of brain scanning. However, to our surprise, we found that some of the older couples in our study, when exposed to a photo of their spouses, showed the same brain activity as the younger people who were deeply in love.”