Love-related changes in the brain: A resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging study

Hongwen Song, Zhiling Zou, Juan Kou, Yang Liu, Lizhuang Yang, Anna Zilverstand, Federico D’Oleire Uquillas, Xiaochu Zhang

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24 Scopus citations

Abstract

Romantic love is a motivational state associated with a desire to enter or maintain a close relationship with a specific other person. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have found activation increases in brain regions involved in the processing of reward, motivation and emotion regulation, when romantic lovers view photographs of their partners. However, not much is known about whether romantic love affects the brain’s functional architecture during rest. In the present study, resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rsfMRI) data was collected to compare the regional homogeneity (ReHo) and functional connectivity (FC) across an “in-love” group (LG, N = 34, currently intensely in love), an “ended-love” group (ELG, N = 34, ended romantic relationship recently), and a “single” group (SG, N = 32, never fallen in love). Results show that: (1) ReHo of the left dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) was significantly increased in the LG (in comparison to the ELG and the SG); (2) ReHo of the left dACC was positively correlated with length of time in love in the LG, and negatively correlated with the lovelorn duration since breakup in the ELG; (3) FC within the reward, motivation, and emotion regulation network (dACC, insula, caudate, amygdala, and nucleus accumbens) as well as FC in the social cognition network [temporo-parietal junction (TPJ), posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), inferior parietal, precuneus, and temporal lobe] was significantly increased in the LG (in comparison to the ELG and SG); (4) in most regions within both networks FC was positively correlated with the duration of love in the LG but negatively correlated with the lovelorn duration of time since breakup in the ELG. This study provides first empirical evidence of love-related alterations in brain functional architecture. Furthermore, the results shed light on the underlying neural mechanisms of romantic love, and demonstrate the possibility of applying a resting-state fMRI approach for investigating romantic love.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number71
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Volume9
Issue numberFEB
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 13 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Song, Zou, Kou, Liu, Yang, Zilver stand, d’Oleire Uquillas and Zhang X (2015).

Keywords

  • Dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC)
  • Functional connectivity (FC)
  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Posterior cingulate cortex (PCC)
  • Regional homogeneity (ReHo)
  • Resting state fMRI (rsfMRI)
  • Romantic love
  • Temporo-parietal junction (TPJ)

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