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Med Sci Monit. 2011 Feb 25;17(3):RA65-75.

The neurobiological link between compassion and love.

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  • 1Division of Integrative Health Promotion, Coburg University of Applied Sciences, Coburg, Germany.


Love and compassion exert pleasant feelings and rewarding effects. Besides their emotional role and capacity to govern behavior, appetitive motivation, and a general 'positive state', even 'spiritual' at times, the behaviors shown in love and compassion clearly rely on neurobiological mechanisms and underlying molecular principles. These processes and pathways involve the brain's limbic motivation and reward circuits, that is, a finely tuned and profound autoregulation. This capacity to self-regulate emotions, approach behaviors and even pair bonding, as well as social contact in general, i.e., love, attachment and compassion, can be highly effective in stress reduction, survival and overall health. Yet, molecular biology is the basis of interpersonal neurobiology, however, there is no answer to the question of what comes first or is more important: It is a cybernetic capacity and complex circuit of autoregulation that is clearly 'amazing'.

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