Psychologists have been studying love/relationships for decades. Many studies over this period have explored the psychological differences between being in love, liking someone and being in a love relationship. Liking is defined as having positive feelings and thoughts towards another person and often finding that the relationships relationship is rewarding. On the other hand, in a romantic relationship, you might find that you are involved with the other person primarily because of your sexual interest.
Studies conducted in humans have indicated that the emotional response and the response to a situation increase the activity in brain regions that control emotions. However, the study also revealed that the activity in these brain regions was related to the sensation of passion. Passion in love styles is more intense compared to non-romantic relationships where there is no sexual attachment. In romantic relationships, the brain regions responsible for identifying with others and forming passionate feelings also increase activity in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), the region of the brain that is typically activated during passion in other types of activities, such as running or gambling.
Another area that has been examined is the limbic system, which is involved in storing and producing emotions like happiness, sadness, anger, fear and stress. Scientists have studied whether the limbic system is responsible for generating feelings of passion in people in love relationships. During imaging studies, participants were shown clips of either their loved one or an object they were attracted to and asked to experience the same feelings for a short time. Surprisingly, when they were exposed to the clip while in an MRI machine, they showed an increase in brain activity that is associated with emotion. However, the participants were not able to understand why they felt this way or how it affected the brain.
Most neuroscientists believe that when we fall in love, the brain pathways associated with emotion become activated. This is similar to the way that lovers fall in love when they are in a relationship; their brains basically become magnetized by oxytocin. When you fall in love with someone or are in a relationship, your brain becomes wired to be attracted to the other person. The question is whether this neurological mechanism is responsible for generating feelings of love or does it just act as an addiction that causes people to repeat the same behavior (getting in love repeatedly) despite the consequences.
Since love seems to be a neurological function, then it makes sense that the neurobiological pathway in the brain that generates feelings of love could also be the cause of addictive behaviors related to lust. For instance, the anatomical structure of the human brain allows people to be more highly aroused by sensations of lust than by feelings of love. Therefore, if you are in a relationship and feel essential because you feel loved, or if you are feeling lust, your brain will override your sense of what is usually your most powerful motivator, your biological drive to be in a loving relationship.
In today’s society, it is not uncommon for individuals who are in a satisfying relationship to feel like heroes. We see these heroes on television and in movies, and we empathize with them. However, we must also be careful to note that it is not the love makes the hero; rather it is the attachment the hero formulates with another person that forms the bond that makes him a hero.