By Bunmi Sofola
WHAT is your conception of love? It’s a question that has inspired everyone from Shakespeare to Sinatra and now scientists believe they have found the answer—and it is not in your head, it is in your heart! According to their research, Dr. Andreas Barlets and Professor Semir Zaki say new insights that could solve some of the mysteries surrounding love has been revealed.
For example, is the love between parent and child the same as the emotion felt by lovers? And, are the kinds of love we feel for friends, parents or pets actually separate, different emotions or are they all a single feeling in various forms?
“Science say that the reason we fall in love is simple—love brings men and women together so that we can mate, pass on genetic material and ensure that the human race survives,” says part of the reports. “The love we feel for children is there to make sure that they too, live to grow up and pass on their genes in turn. But the human brain is complex and exactly how love helps us along the road to mating has never been revealed. Until now.”
Neuroscientist Dr. Barlets and Prof. Zaki at the University College, London, measured brain activity in 22 mothers who viewed pictures of their own children, then other children they know. They also show the mums’ pictures of their partners, a best friend, and an adult acquaintance. The two scientists found love of overlap between the brain areas activated during feelings of romantic love for a partner and those involved in maternal love of their own children. These brain cells are the same ones we use when we are doing something pleasant—eating and drinking for example.
“But certain parts of the brain seem actually to shut down when we love someone,” continues the report. “The prefrontal cortex, which helps us make judgments about other people, switches off when we’re in love. And, when we think about our children, areas that deal with negative emotions such as fear and aggression are deactivated. That could explain one of the great mysteries of life.
Why we don’t notice obvious faults in our partners and kids, love, it seems really is blind. “The research also shows why it takes so long to see flaws in people we idolise, and why we can end up choosing the wrong person to commit to. But when our love cools, our brains wake up to reality again—and we find ourselves looking at those we once loved with different eyes.
Additional experiments have shown that love can affect us in different ways, depending on whom we feel affection for. “When we look at our husbands or partners, we activate a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which in turn pushes out chemicals to arouse us sexually,” continues the report. “But the hypothalamus doesn’t respond when we look at our children.
Love for our kids seems to be connected to the part of the brain that helps us to recognise faces. Children and babies change so quickly that our face recognition machinery has to keep updating itself. But this area isn’t very active when we think about our partners. So, perhaps, nature intended us to stay with the same person for our whole lives.
“Communication forms a big part of love. And, in order to communicate well, we have to develop insight into what’s going on in other people’s mind so that we don’t offend them and can please them. It should, therefore, come as no surprise to discover that areas of the brain that help us pick up on the signals others give out are active in romantic love.
It seems that part of the reward of being in love comes from understanding that someone also loves you. But once again, these areas aren’t so important in parental love. So, knowing that our children don’t feel about us the same way we feel about them doesn’t stop us loving them.”
Thanks to these two experts, we now know that when we fall in love, our brains numb down and rule our hearts. That’s why we rush into sex and produce children we also love, no matter what. And, although this may sound a very unscientific way of doing things, it is worked so far.