Neuro your Love! (The Love Competition)

On March 14, 2012

Is it possible for one person to love more than another?

Theories of a biological basis of love have been explored by psychology, biology, anthropology and neuroscience. Specific chemical substances such as oxytocin are studied in the context of their roles in producing human experiences and behaviors that are associated with love. Brain scanning techniques such as fMRI have been used to investigate brain regions that seem to be involved in producing the human experience of love.

In order to answer the question “How much do you love me?”, people usually say “This much!” or “Very much!” or “A lot!”. But how much is “very much”? Using neuroimaging devices, scientists found a concrete way of measuring love feelings.

Recently, Stanford neuroscientists (Dr. Melina Uncapher – Scientific Director and Dr. Bob Dougherty – Research Director) hosted the world’s first love competition, showing the science behind the emotions. They asked 7 contestants between the ages of 10 and 75 to spend 5 minutes in an fMRI machine thinking deeply about the person they love. Their aim was to determine who can produce the most love.

“The First Annual Love Competition” has the following rules:
• Contestants will have 5 minutes in an fMRI to love someone as hard as they can.
• Brain regions involved in producing the neurochemical experience of love will be measured.
• The contestant who generates the greatest level of activity in those areas, wins.

The 7 contestants:
1. Kent (age 75) – happily married for 50 years; will think of his wife
2. Tiffany (age 23) – will think of her new boyfriend
3. Peter (age 32) – will try to think of his ex-girlfriend, as he is trying to get over her (the results will make him feel good)
4. Morgan (age 24) – has never been in love, will focus on love as internal and generated through chakra meditation
5. Don (age 60) – loved many times
6. Marilyn (age 72) – Kent’s wife
7. Milo (age 10) – will think of his newborn cousin; he says “love is like a feeling you have for someone you have feelings about

The left picture presents the dopamine pathway, the serotonin pathway and the Oxytocin/Vasopressin pathway – the pathways that researchers think are involved in the experience of romantic love. Researchers monitored these areas and measure the output. And all of these pathways seem to be converging on the nucleus accumbens, so this is one of the regions they looked at, as it may be a primary indicator of how much love they’re experiencing. The winner of the competition would be the one who generated the most activity in these brain areas, as he/she loved someone more deeply than another contestants.

They were collecting a full signal throughout the entire brain every 2 seconds for about 5 minutes, while each subject was inside the fMRI.

Subjects said they had a great time, as they experienced nice feelings. Also, it was great seeing them talk about their loves and feelings.

And the winner was:

I won’t tell the name of the winner, you will have to find out watching the video. But I will say that, Peter, the man that was trying to get over his ex-girlfriend, had a great reaction on finding out he got the last place (he loved least).

Blumpback in association with The Standford Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Imaging present the following video directed by Brent Hoff. This is a chance to witness something really beautiful (a neuroscience study on love):

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