A recent study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine by researchers from Concordia University discovered that love and desire activate specific but nonetheless related areas in the brain. The researchers were able to map the different parts of the brain responsible for love, on the one hand, and desire, on the other, by looking at 20 distinct studies which examined the brain activity of research participants while they were engaging in tasks that activated these regions.
For example, some of the participants were looking at pictures of their significant others while others were looking at erotically stimulating pictures. It was by pooling the data from these various experiments that the researchers claim to have created a map of love and desire in the brain.
But which parts of the brain are responsible for these phenomena? The striatum and the insula seem to be some of the most important parts of the brain when it comes to love and desire. Although distinct structures, the two regions are responsible for the progression from mere lust or desire to actual love. The two are situated near one another, with the insula, a part of the cerebral cortex, existing between the frontal and temporal lobes, and the striatum, residing in the forebrain.
One part of the striatum is activated by desire, and another part is activated by love. Sexual desire, for example, is activated by the same part of the striatum responsible for activation regarding sensual pleasures such as food or sex. The part of the brain associated with love activation shows activated after repeated conditioning to something pleasurable. The researchers note that this is the same part of the brain involved in drug addiction.
Concordia University. (2012, June 20). I want to know where love is: First brain map of love and desire. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120620101011.htm