Monday, 13 Apr, 2009 Science
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Scientists Unveil the Mysteries of Unconditional Love

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Having the goal of unveiling the mysteries of unconditional love, researchers analyzed brain activity. In their study they managed to discover that caring for someone unconditionally lights up seven areas in the brain.

It is worth mentioning that impulses registered when it comes to unconditional love differ from those that are linked to romantic or sexual love, which means that unconditional love is, in fact, a different emotion.

The lead-researcher of the team from Montreal University's centre for research into neurophysiology and cognition, professor Mario Beauregard, said: "Unconditional love, extended to others without exception, is considered to be one of the highest expressions of spirituality. However, nothing has been known regarding its neural underpinnings until now."

The evolutionary theory states that people should feel the emotions of unconditional love for parents and children, meaning those who transmit our genes to next generations. But in real life we may experience unconditional love towards people with whom we have no "blood" connection.

In order to discover why this happens, the lead researcher decided to use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on assistants who were paid the least but who took care of people with learning difficulties. These assistants served as examples of people who have the ability to feel unconditional love.

During the MRI, subjects were asked to call to mind feelings of unconditional love. Researches saw 7 active areas in the brain. Three of those areas were similar to regions in the brain that became active when it came to romantic love. The other four were different, which means that the feeling of love for someone without the need of being rewarded is different from the feeling of romantic love.

In his study professor Beauregard found that some brain areas that turned on when a person felt unconditional love also engaged in discharging dopamine, chemical that plays a role in sensing pleasure.

"The rewarding nature of unconditional love facilitates the creation of strong emotional links. Such robust bonds may critically contribute to the survival of the human species," Beauregard wrote in his research.

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