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Does Lasting Love Exist?

Can romantic love last or, by its very nature, does it have an expiration date? Some research has suggested that love inevitably fades after about 15 months while others give it around three years. Seemingly the consensus is that love resembles a brief fever that has to die eventually.

Contrary to the common belief the recent scientific evidence suggests passionate love doesn’t have to decline over time. A new study (2010) led by Bianca Acevedo, Ph.D., and Arthur Aron, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychology at Stony Brook University, and colleagues (Helen E. Fisher, Ph.D., Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University, and Lucy L. Brown, Ph.D., Department of Neurology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine) compared the brain activity of long-term married and in love individuals with individuals who had recently fallen in love. They discovered highly similar brain activity in regions associated with reward, motivation and “wanting” in both groups of participants.

lasting-love

Picture by Stockimagesondemand.com

The research team used an advanced functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of 10 women and 7 men who insisted they were still intensely in love with their partner after an average of 21 years of marriage. Participants were presented with facial photographs of their partner, and control photographs of others ranging from a close friend to a low-familiar person. The brain activity was measured while participants viewed the facial images.

The researches then compared the fMRI imaging results with those from an earlier experiment (Aron et al., 2005) that used similar fMRI scanning methods with 10 women and 7 men who had fallen madly in love recently–within the past year. Much to scientist’s surprise the results showed that the results of both studies looked very much alike, with all the right regions lighting up in all the right ways.

“We found many very clear similarities between those who were in love long term and those who had just fallen madly in love,” -Dr. Aron

According to Drs. Acevedo and Aron the findings suggest that reward-value associated with a long-term partner may be sustained similarly to new love. The study is the first of a kind and proves that passionate love can last much longer than anticipated. That is good news for all monogamous couples. In addition, the results support theories suggesting that there might be specific brain mechanisms by which romantic love is sustained.

References:
Love Can Last: SBU Imaging Study Shows Brain Activity Of Those In Love Long Term Similar To Those Newly In Love
Neural correlates of long-term intense romantic love