Romantic love lights up the same brain regions of lovers, whether they’re heterosexual or homosexual or male or female, a new study indicates.
Pictures from functional magnetic resonance imaging scans (fMRIs) show similar activity in cortical and sub-cortical brain regions when lovers, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, see images of their romantic partners, according to researchers at University College London.
These regions are known to be rich in dopaminergic activity. And dopamine, the scientists point out, is the so-called “feel good” neurotransmitter.
Serotonin is thought to be important in regulating emotional relationships as well as in bonding between individuals.
Semir Zeki, a professor in the University College London’s Wellcome Trust Center for Neuroimaging, and John Romaya, a senior programmer, scanned the brains of 24 volunteers as they viewed pictures of their romantic partners.
The participants also looked at pictures of friends of the same sex as their lovers, but to whom they were not attracted.
While some brain regions showed increased activity when lovers viewed images of romantic partners, others shut down, such as parts of the temporal, parietal, and frontal cortex, which are thought to be important in judgment.
Half of the volunteers were males, half females, and six of each sex were homosexual and the other six heterosexual. And all told the researchers they were passionately in love with their partners.
The participants ranged in age from 19 to 47, and relationship lengths ranged from four months to 23 years.
All were asked to rate their feelings toward their romantic partners before and again after scanning, and to declare their sexual orientation in groups ranging from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively homosexual.