The Brain in Love

  • Published10 Feb 2015
  • Reviewed9 Feb 2015
  • Author Michael W. Richardson
  • Source BrainFacts/SfN
Prairie voles with pups.

Love in the Lab: How Scientists Study Affection

Research in animals and humans is helping to identify brain processes that are active when people are in love.

Photo by Todd Ahern, Larry Young.
Prairie voles with pups.
Cartoon of girl thinking of love

Love in the Brain

Is love in the heart and soul, or is it all in our heads? A high school student uses neuroscience to answer.

UIrene Suh, Thomas Fisher, and the Society for Neuroscience 2011 Brain Awareness Video Contest.
Cartoon of girl thinking of love
This image shows the brains of monogamous prairie voles, with oxytocin receptors labeled in light blue, red, and yellow. When researchers used genetic techniques to increase oxytocin receptor levels in the brain (right column), they found female voles formed partner preferences faster.

Oxytocin: Bonding, Birth, and Trust

Efforts to uncover nature's way of initiating labor led to the basic science discovery of a brain chemical that is involved in a host of social behaviors, including affection.

Ross, et al. The Journal of Neuroscience, 2009.
This image shows the brains of monogamous prairie voles, with oxytocin receptors labeled in light blue, red, and yellow. When researchers used genetic techniques to increase oxytocin receptor levels in the brain (right column), they found female voles formed partner preferences faster.
Mother holding baby.

Hormones: Communication between the Brain and the Body

Hormones are important messages both within the brain and between the brain and the body.

Mother holding baby.

Whether it’s affection for your family or a crush on a classmate, feelings of love are associated with a series of chemical reactions in your brain.  So while you write love letters and buy chocolates ahead of Valentine’s Day, give some thought to your head as well as your heart. Here are a few of our favorite stories about the brain in love from BrainFacts.org. To find out more, browse through the images and their descriptions and click on the link in each caption to read the full articles.

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