They have also been happily married for nearly four decades.
Love may well be one of the most studied, but least understood, behaviors.
More than 20 years ago, the biological anthropologist Helen Fisher studied 166 societies and found evidence of romantic love—the kind that leaves one breathless and euphoric—in 147 of them.
This ubiquity, said Schwartz, an HMS associate professor of psychiatry at Mc Lean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., indicates that “there’s good reason to suspect that romantic love is kept alive by something basic to our biological nature.” In 2005, Fisher led a research team that published a groundbreaking study that included the first functional MRI (f MRI) images of the brains of individuals in the throes of romantic love.
Vasopressin is linked to behavior that produces long-term, monogamous relationships.
The differences in behavior associated with the actions of the two hormones may explain why passionate love fades as attachment grows.“We know that primitive areas of the brain are involved in romantic love,” said Olds, an HMS associate professor of psychiatry at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital, “and that these areas light up on brain scans when talking about a loved one.These areas can stay lit up for a long time for some couples.” When we are falling in love, chemicals associated with the reward circuit flood our brain, producing a variety of physical and emotional responses—racing hearts, sweaty palms, flushed cheeks, feelings of passion and anxiety.A 2011 study conducted at Stony Brook University in New York state found that it is possible to be madly in love with someone after decades of marriage.The research team, which included Fisher, performed MRI scans on couples who had been married an average of 21 years.Her team analyzed 2,500 brain scans of college students who viewed pictures of someone special to them and compared the scans to ones taken when the students looked at pictures of acquaintances.Photos of people they romantically loved caused the participants’ brains to become active in regions rich with dopamine, the so-called feel-good neurotransmitter.They found the same intensity of activity in dopamine-rich areas of the brains as found in the brains of couples who were newly in love.The study suggested that the excitement of romance can remain while the apprehension is lost.Released during sex and heightened by skin-to-skin contact, oxytocin deepens feelings of attachment and makes couples feel closer to one another after having sex.Oxytocin, known also as the love hormone, provokes feelings of contentment, calmness, and security, which are often associated with mate bonding.