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FEBS Lett. 2007 Jun 12;581(14):2575-9. Epub 2007 May 8.

The neurobiology of love.

Author information

1
University College, Department of Anatomy, London, UK. zeki.pa@ucl.ac.uk

Abstract

Romantic and maternal love are highly rewarding experiences. Both are linked to the perpetuation of the species and therefore have a closely linked biological function of crucial evolutionary importance. The newly developed ability to study the neural correlates of subjective mental states with brain imaging techniques has allowed neurobiologists to learn something about the neural bases of both romantic and maternal love. Both types of attachment activate regions specific to each, as well as overlapping regions in the brain's reward system that coincide with areas rich in oxytocin and vasopressin receptors. Both deactivate a common set of regions associated with negative emotions, social judgment and 'mentalizing' that is, the assessment of other people's intentions and emotions. Human attachment seems therefore to employ a push-pull mechanism that overcomes social distance by deactivating networks used for critical social assessment and negative emotions, while it bonds individuals through the involvement of the reward circuitry, explaining the power of love to motivate and exhilarate. Yet the biological study of love, and especially romantic love, must go beyond and look for biological insights that can be derived from studying the world literature of love, and thus bring the output of the humanities into its orbit.

PMID:
17531984
DOI:
10.1016/j.febslet.2007.03.094
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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