But at the very beginning or her talk, she made a startling comment about love and what it does to the brain:
“We now know that the chemical changes in parts of the brain when you’re in love are equal to that of heroin doses or high cocaine doses, so you kind of know — If you have to ask if you’re in love, you’re not,” Deak said.
Deak isn’t the only expert who thinks about love this way. Many other psychology studies and brain scan studies have found the same thing. Romantic love (that head-over-heels feeling you get for someone) is essentially elevated activity of the reward hormone dopamine in the brain. The same thing happens when you take cocaine or heroin.
Psychologist Helen Fisher has extensively studied how love affects the brain. In one experiment, Fisher and a team of scientists scanned the brains of people who said they were in love. The team showed each person a neutral photo and then a photo of the person they loved. The team recorded which regions of the brain became active while the person looked at the photo of their partner.
One of the brain regions that became active when each person looked at a photo of their partner is the reward system in the brain — the same region that lights up when a person takes drugs like cocaine or has an orgasm.
That means that “romantic love is not an emotion, it’s a drive,” Fisher said in a TED talk about the research. “And in fact, I think it’s more powerful than the sex drive.”
You can watch the Deak video below:
And the Fisher TED talk here:
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