Love is an emotion of a strong affection and personal attachment. Love is also said to be a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, and affection —"the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another". Love may describe compassionate and affectionate actions towards other humans, one's self or animals.
Is it love, or just lust? The answer, it turns out, might have to do with which part of our brain is being activated.
The study, published Wednesday in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, analyzed 20 studies related to the effects of sex and love on the body. The research included brain scans of people who viewed erotic photos, photos of their significant others, food and other pleasure triggers.
Two parts of the brain, the insula and the striatum, are responsible for tracking the way in which sexual desire develops into feelings of love, researchers said. Lust triggers parts of the brain that control pleasurable feelings, associated with sex and food, but love triggers parts of the brain associated with habits.
“We assign different language to love and sexual desire and addiction,” said Jim Pfaus, a professor of psychology at Concordia University in Montreal and lead author of the study. “But really, they’re all being processed in a similar place. When we see this, the idea of love at first sight probably isn’t true. People are feeling desire.”
The brain treats love like a habit that has been formed over time. So, after lust may come love, and those feelings of love move to different part of the brain that processes habits and reward patterns. The same brain pattern occurs when people become drug addicts.
“Habits usually get a bad reputation, but it’s an important thing that the brain imposes,” said Pfaus. “The change from desire to love is the bonding mechanism in relationships.”
These brain mechanisms involve monogamy and connection in a variety of different kinds of relationships, experts said. It activates the need to defend the interests of one’s children or lover, Pfaus said.