Does being in love make you motivate less or does it make you motivate more?

Science defines love as a complex sentiment involving emotional, cognitive and behavioral components and it has been regarded as the inspiration for some of the most extraordinary achievements of mankind as it boosts confidence and metamorphoses motivational state associated with a desire to maintain a close relationship with a specific other person.

So, no doubt that it makes you motivate more and researchers have now examined how being in a romantic relationship produces alterations in the brain’s functional architecture.

They found that being in love has been shown to play a role in mediating reward and goal directed motivation and increase connectivity between regions of the brain associated with reward, motivation, emotion regulation, social cognition, attention, memory, mental associations, and self-representation.

The researchers recruited one hundred healthy students, all from Southwest University, Chongqing, China and examined differences in patterns of brain connectivity using resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rsfMRI).

The researchers divided the participants into three groups according to their previous romantic relationship:

  • The “in-love” group (LG), consisting of individuals currently intensely in love;
  • The “ended-love” group (ELG), consisting of individuals who had recently ended a close romantic relationship and were not currently in love;
  • The “single” group (SG), consisting of individuals who had never fallen in love with anyone.

The researchers compared the collected resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rsfMRI) data with the regional homogeneity (ReHo) and functional connectivity (FC) across the groups and found that the ReHo of the left dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) – area of the brain is closely related to the state of falling in love – was significantly increased in the “in-love” group compared to the other two, and the ReHo of the bilateral caudate nucleus – part of the brain associated with reward, expectation, representation of goals, and integration of sensory input – was significantly decreased in the “ended-love” group.

Pictured below is the altered functional connectivity (FC) pattern in comparison across the three groups.

Altered functional connectivity (FC) pattern in comparison across the three groups

The result of the study which was published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience provides the first empirical evidence of love-related alterations in brain functional architecture.

“The study shed light on the underlying neurophysiological mechanisms of romantic love by investigating intrinsic brain activity, and demonstrate the possibility of applying a resting state approach for investigating romantic love,” the researchers concluded.

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