Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

Falling in love takes 1/5 of a second

Author: Paulo Coelho

Why people don’t accept love as it is, full of agonies and extasies, a misterious force that keeps the universe together?
But no, even for love there is a need for explanations….

According to a study in the recent issue of The Journal of Sexual Medicine, people who “fall in love at first sight” do so in a fifth of a second.
The researchers say the feeling is the same sort of sensation that one gets from using cocaine.

Below, an edited transcript of Science2.0 post:

Do you fall in love using your heart or your brain?
It depends. For your brain – says a new analysis by Syracuse University Professor Stephanie Ortigue – falling in love elicits the same euphoric feeling as using cocaine, but it also affects intellectual areas of the brain. That’s a pretty big endorsement of the brain being number one in romance.

So if love is in the brain and not the heart, is there ‘love at first sight’ after all?

The science says yes, according to the researchers, who found falling in love only takes about a fifth of a second.
The love feeling also affects sophisticated cognitive functions, such as mental representation, metaphors and body image, which may explain why peoples’ abilities and behaviors are all over the psychology map when they are in a new relationship.

The findings have interest for neuroscience and mental health research because when relationships don’t work out, it can be a significant cause of emotional stress and depression. “It’s another probe into the brain and into the mind of a patient,” says Ortigue. “By understanding why they fall in love and why they are so heartbroken, they can use new therapies.”

The study also shows different parts of the brain fall for love. For example, unconditional love, such as that between a mother and a child, is sparked by the common and different brain areas, including the middle of the brain. Passionate love is sparked by the reward part of the brain, and also associative cognitive brain areas that have higher-order cognitive functions, such as body image.

So, seriously, does your heart fall in love or the brain?
“That’s a tricky question always,” says Ortigue. “I would say the brain, but the heart is also related because the complex concept of love is formed by both bottom-up and top-down processes from the brain to the heart and vice versa. For instance, activation in some parts of the brain can generate stimulations to the heart, butterflies in the stomach. Some symptoms we sometimes feel as a manifestation of the heart may sometimes be coming from the brain.”

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