Love-related changes in the brain: A resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging study

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Hongwen eSong ; Zhiling eZou ; Juan eKou ; Yang eLiu ; LiZhuang eYang ; Anna ezilverstand ; Federicod’Oleire eUquillas ; Xiaochu eZhang ; Xiaochu eZhang ; Xiaochu eZhang (2015)
  • Publisher: Frontiers Media S.A.
  • Journal: Frontiers in Human Neuroscience (issn: 1662-5161)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00071/full, doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00071
  • Subject: Nucleus Accumbens | temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) | romantic love | functional connectivity (FC) | Dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) | Posterior cingulate cortex (PCC)

Romantic love is a motivational state associated with a desire to enter or maintain a close relationship with a specific other person. Studies with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have found activation increases in brain regions involved in processing of reward, emotion, motivation when romantic lovers view photographs of their partners. However, not much is known on whether romantic love affects the brain’s functional architecture during rest. In the present study, resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rsfMRI) data was collected to compare the regional homogeneity (ReHo) and functional connectivity (FC) across a lover group (LG, N=34, currently intensely in love), ended-love group (ELG, N=34, romantic relationship ended recently), and single group (SG, N=32, never fallen in love).The results showed that:1) ReHo of the left dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) was significantly increased in the LG (in comparison to the ELG and the SG); 2) ReHo of the left dACC was positively correlated with length of time in love in the LG, and negatively correlated with the lovelorn duration since breakup in the ELG; 3) functional connectivity (FC) within the reward, motivation, and emotion network (dACC, insula, caudate, amygdala and nucleus accumbens) and the social cognition network (temporo-parietal junction (TPJ), posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), inferior parietal, precuneus and temporal lobe) was significantly increased in the LG (in comparison to the ELG and SG); 4) in most regions within both networks FC was positively correlated with the love duration in the LG but negatively correlated with the lovelorn duration in the ELG. This study provides first empirical evidence of love-related alterations of brain functional architecture. The results shed light on the underlying neural mechanisms of romantic love, and demonstrate the possibility of applying a resting state approach for investigating romantic love.
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