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Science Links Love and Addiction

A study of brain scans traces love and drug addiction to the same region of the brain.


This is your brain on love. Photo via

By Valerie Tejeda


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Turns out you really can be a junkie for love. A Canadian study has traced drug addiction and love to the same region of the brain—lending credence to what anyone who has ever been in love (or addicted to drugs) already suspected. Neuroscientists from Montreal's Concordia University found that love and sex are activated in different, yet related, areas of the brain—suggesting distinction between these sets of feelings. And the overall part of the brain responsible for love, they discovered, is also responsible for drug addiction. Neuroscientist Jim Pfaus, along with colleagues in the USA and Switzerland, analyzed the results of 20 separate studies in which subjects looked at photos of their romantic partners as well as erotic pictures, while a “map” of love and desire in the brain was compiled via brain scan. The scientists believe they found a pattern: sexual desire activates the part of the brain that is responsible for pleasure (such a food) and love activates the area that is responsible for process conditioning. Feelings of sexual desire could develop into love—and then be processed in the exact same area of the brain that is responsible for addiction to drugs. “Love is actually a habit that is formed from sexual desire, as desire is rewarded. It works the same way in the brain as when people become addicted to drugs," says Pfaus. "I see this paper as a cornerstone, in what I hope will turn into more studies in human social neuroscience that can give us an idea of where love is in the brain."

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