What Happens When Love Arouses the Brain?


For centuries, we’ve been convinced that love is a feeling that arises from the heart. But the reality is that when we’re in love, it happens primarily in our brains, producing hormones like adrenaline and oxytocin, which are associated with feelings of excitement and bonding.

You can tell you’re falling in love when your significant other takes up major real estate in your thoughts – even when you’re not with them. Kang says that when she fell in love with her husband, she’d think about their conversations while at work and reread his text messages. She’d also spend time looking at photos of them and daydreaming about their future together.

In a recent experiment, scientists put 37 people who were madly in love into an MRI scanner to see what their brains looked like when they were experiencing those intense romantic feelings. They found that when love is arousing, certain parts of the brain are activated – the same areas that respond to cocaine and other rewards.

According to Sternberg’s model, which divides love into three components, namely intimacy, passion, and commitment, people experience two basic types of love:

Intimate/companionate love (think fidelity) and ecstatic/adventurous love (think romance). Complementary love helps us feel stable and connected with others, while passionate love is about our desire for companionship and adventure. These different aspects of love are what help our relationships last. But they can also make it challenging to figure out what makes a relationship “good.” That’s why researchers are studying how couples nurture their loving relationships and keep them happy over the long haul.