Saturday, 10 January 2009

True Love and the Brain

It seems that True Love lasts forever. At least a third of the time, anyway.

"It's always been assumed that passionate love inevitably declines over time," said Arthur Aron, a social psychologist at Stony Brook University and one of four authors of the study, presented in November at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

"But in survey after survey we always have these people who have been together a long time and say they are intensely in love. It was always chalked up to self-deception or trying to make a good impression," he said.

This study suggests that's not the case, said Bianca Acevedo.
In fact, she said, the study found an advantage to the longer-term relationships she studied: The brains of those people showed less anxiety and obsessiveness.

Aron had conducted an earlier MRI study published in 2005 among 17 people who had recently fallen in love. He found that regions of the brain associated generally with reward and motivation - the same regions that light up when cocaine is taken - activated when the subjects were shown pictures of their beloved. These regions, Aron said, are not the same as those associated with sexual arousal.
There's more to Love than just Sex. All too many charged with overseeing morality on religious grounds don't see that. You'd think that they, of all people, would understand that Love is more than just the pleasurable rubbing of mucous membranes - though that's usually involved too, and with someone you truly love, is quite special.

It's neither necessary nor sufficient though. Useful, certainly, and when it doesn't happen, something valuable and beautiful is lost. But not the most important thing.
Using the same approach, the researchers recruited 17 people who, like Bernstein, said they were still madly in love with their spouses.
Acevedo said it was impossible to extrapolate from their study what percentage of long-lasting couples might register the same intensity of emotion as her 17 subjects. But she said a previous phone survey of several hundred people in long-term relationships she and Aron conducted found about 35 percent rated their feeling for their partners as very intense.

"We were shocked," she said. "We hadn't predicted it would be that high."

Keith Davis, professor emeritus of psychology at University of South Carolina, said other studies support Acevedo and Aron's research.

"I think popular literature underestimates how many retain a high level of intense emotional investment with their partners," he said.
The fMRI scans showed to the researchers' surprise, that people who fell in love, married and stayed together for so long, are just as much in love with each other as the day they wed.

As I and my partner are, despite us both being women, and neither of us being lesbian. We may be... unusual. Unconventional, even. But we're not alone.

Our 27th wedding anniversary is coming up in two months. And we have, against all odds, a son who is the most important thing in both our lives. OK, I'm a hopeless romantic as well as being a scientist, but I love happy beginnings. Maybe you could say that our story would make the ultimate Chick Flick.


Pinkess Lozza said...

Hi I am a bit ignorant when it comes to transexuality, so was just wondering whether your son is biologically both of yours (i dunno how it works)I thought seeing as you're open enough to speak about your life and what you've been through you wouldn't mind me asking, but I am sorry if I have offended you and your family at all. Laura

Zoe Brain said...

I won't go into the details of my son's conception - his privacy is an issue.

Some men have managed to become biological fathers, despite difficulties similar to mine with genital form. Had I had normal neurology, it's barely possible normal conception might have happened. We did try, hoping against hope, for 20 years.

Had I had normal genital anatomy, the neurological difficulties may possibly have been overcome as well. Some transwomen do manage the "mental gymnastics" required. Erectile tissue becomes engorged in both sexes, that wasn't a problem.

I was and am deeply in love with my partner, and she with me. Viagra etc wouldn't have been helpful, it was the physical problems of undervirilised genitalia and the wrong reflexes.

The combination of the two difficulties meant the odds against success were so high, we ran out of time. We were both in our 40's before we turned to artificial means. We tried as long as we could.

Think Syringes etc to extract gametes. We were lucky, because shortly afterwards, the marginal functionality of my reproductive glands vanished.

So I am my boy's biological father. His existence is miraculous (as is every child's), but his more so than most.

Zoe Brain said...

Pinkess lozza - to give you an idea of the difficulties involved - try to imagine what it would be like to try to have a child with your boyfriend. Only he has your anatomy, and you have his.

The instincts, the reflexes, are all wrong. Even if you love him with all your heart and soul, it just seems terribly perverse and un-natural.

Then add genitalia more appropriate for a ten year old than a post-pubescent male, to get an added "degree of difficulty".

I did rather rail against the fates for that one. If I was going to be a "woman trapped in a man's body", at least the fates could have given me a normal male one! I didn't mind, but it was rather unfair to my partner.

Chris said... has some very interesting writing about the science behind love, etc.

Anonymous said...

I sometimes wonder if I will ever have children myself. I am scheduled to have surgery on July 27th and am ambivalent towards retrieving any DNA for reproductive purposes. I just don't want to see another human being possibly affected by transgenderism.