A new study, conducted by Arthur Aron, Ph.D., Bianca Acevedo, Ph.D., and colleagues used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to determine the neural correlates of long-term married and in love people in comparison with people who had recently fallen in love. The study, conducted in the Department of Psychology at Stony Brook University, found that areas attributed to motivation, reward and "wanting'' in both sets of couples have highly similar brain activity.
An article titled ,"Neural correlates of long-term intense romantic love," mentioned online in Affective Neuroscience and Social Cognitive that the concerned study is the first to analyze and screen the neural correlates of individuals in long-term romantic love and could provide scientists with evidences to answer this question: why couples are still in love?
In order to screen the brains of the participating population, ten females and seven males, the researching team used fMRI which showed that they were staying in love with their partners after an average twenty -one years of marriage. Participants were shown control images and facial images of their partners involving a close friend, a low-familiar individual and a highly-familiar acquaintance. Brain activity was measured while participants were checking the facial images.
Moreover, the researchers compared the results of fMRI screening with those from an earlier experiment that used the same fMRI scanning method with seven males and ten females who had fallen intensely in love within the past year. Dr. Aron, pointing to key reward and motivation areas of the brain, wide parts of the dopamine-rich ventral tegmental area (VTA); she reported "We found many very clear similarities between those who were in love long term and those who had just fallen madly in love. In this latest study, the VTA showed greater response to images of a long-term partner when compared with images of a close friend or any of the other facial images."
In addition, Dr. Acevedo said "Interestingly, the same VTA region showed greater activation for those in the long-term couple group who scored especially high on romantic love scales and a closeness scale based on questionnaires,". Finally, Drs. Acevedo and Aron explained that the brain screening information on the long-term couples suggests that reward-value attributed with a long-term partner might be maintained, same as to new love.
Besides, the results support theories suggesting that there may be certain brain mechanisms through which romantic love is maintained in some long-term relationships. However, the mysteries of romantic love and how love can be maintained long term may never be completely understood by humans. Drs. Acevedo and Aron believe that the study offers evidence and possibly powerful clues to what may be important activity in brain for love to last.