Why True Love is So Rare

Posted on February 16, 2009

Science has finally revealed the answer as to why true love is so rare. It's all in your DNA. When we say true love, we mean those rare couples who have been together for over decades and are still crazy about each other. They may be in their 80s, but they still hold hands and get a thrill when they see their spouse come through the door. Apparently, most people simply aren't hardwired to make love last that long. They get bored or fall out of love. But those that have a certain makeup know how to make love last a lifetime.
n humans, there are four tiny areas of the brain that some researchers say form a circuit of love. Acevedo, who works at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, is part of a team that has isolated those regions with the unromantic names of ventral tegmental area (VTA), the nucleus accumbens, the ventral pallidum and raphe nucleus.

The hot spot is the teardrop-shaped VTA. When people newly in love were put in a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine and shown pictures of their beloved, the VTA lit up. Same for people still madly in love after 20 years. The VTA is part of a key reward system in the brain.

"These are cells that make dopamine and send it to different brain regions," said Helen Fisher, a researcher and professor at Rutgers University. "This part of the system becomes activated because you're trying to win life's greatest prize _ a mating partner." One of the research findings isn't so complimentary: Love works chemically in the brain like a drug addiction.

The team's most recent brain scans were aimed at people married about 20 years who say they are still holding hands, lovey-dovey as newlyweds, a group that is a minority of married people. In these men and women, two more areas of the brain lit up, along with the VTA: the ventral pallidum and raphe nucleus. The ventral pallidum is associated with attachment and hormones that decrease stress; the raphe nucleus pumps out serotonin, which "gives you a sense of calm," Fisher said. Those areas produce "a feeling of nothing wrong. It's a lower-level happiness and it's certainly rewarding," Brown said.
The research showed why a broken heart is so painful: your brain reacts chemically like a drug addict's when the drug has been withheld. The brains of the lovelorn look a great deal like the brains of cocaine addicts who are going through withdrawal.

Another interesting finding is the implication that certain people literally cannot form permanent pair bonds. Those people will always cheat on their mates. Once a cheater, always a cheater. Although we didn't need a bunch of scientists to tell us that.