Have you ever thought about whether or not there’s a connection between love and desire? And modern science has shown us that love originates in the brain, and not the heart. But is is the same place in the brain where sexual desire resides?
The answer may be in a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, which actually draws an exact map of both these feelings. Psychologist Jim Pfaus, with the help of colleagues in the US and Switzerland, analyzed the results from 20 different studies that examined brain activity of participants, who were engaged in tasks such as looking at pictures of their significant others or viewing erotic photographs. By pooling in the data from these separate studies, the researchers were able to come up with a complete map of love and desire in the brain.
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The scientists found that the insula and the striatum, two structures in the brain, are what are responsible for tracking the progression from sexual desire to love. While the insula is located deep within, between the temporal and frontal lobes, the striatum is inside the forebrain.
Suggested read: The key to long-lasting love is… Oxytocin!
Speaking about the uniqueness of the study, Jim Pfaus, professor of psychology at Concordia University, member of Center for Studies in Behavioral Neurobiology and the co-author of the study, said,
“No one has ever put these two together to see the patterns of activation. We didn’t know what to expect – the two could have ended up being completely separate. It turns out that love and desire activate specific but related areas in the brain.”
The interesting thing is that love and sexual desire light up different areas of the striatum. Sexual desire lights up the area of the brain that is activated by things that are inherently pleasurable, such as sex or food. And the area lit up by love, is also activated by reward or pleasure. That is, as sexual desire morphs into love, they are processed in a different place in the striatum.
And surprisingly, the part of the striatum that love lights up, is also the part of the brain that is associated with drug addiction. Pfaus explained,
“Love is actually a habit that is formed from sexual desire as desire is rewarded. It works the same way in the brain as when people become addicted to drugs.”
So love and desire light up related areas in the brain, and love is like a drug. Huh. If you’ve ever wondered if love and sexual desire are connected, now you have proof that it does.
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