This report, based on an article in The Journal of Neurophysiology, claims that scientists have discovered that romantic love "is a biological urge distinct from sexual arousal."
It is closer in its neural profile to drives like hunger, thirst or drug craving, the researchers assert, than to emotional states like excitement or affection. As a relationship deepens, the brain scans suggest, the neural activity associated with romantic love alters slightly, and in some cases primes areas deep in the primitive brain that are involved in long-term attachment.
The research helps explain why love produces such disparate emotions, from euphoria to anger to anxiety, and why it seems to become even more intense when it is withdrawn. In a separate, continuing experiment, the researchers are analyzing brain images from people who have been rejected by their lovers.
One scientists put it this way: "The findings fit nicely with a large, growing body of literature describing a generalized reward and aversion system in the brain, and put this intellectual construct of love directly onto the same axis as homeostatic rewards such as food, warmth, craving for drugs." Oh, how to make something grand into something lifeless and sterile! Let us talk of the areas of the brain--the caudate nucleus and the ventral tegmental areas and the chemical dopamine, or, refer to romantic love as "frustration-attraction"--when we are trying to understand love! Let us dare not say, as the Poet does, that "Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind."
Read this report to learn why the poets are right, and the scientists--in their quest to "know", but only a certain way--are dull and low and base and cold and full of bread and sloth. We all know something about romantic love (or even infatuation, but note that I leave out sex, at least for now), and yet no one in his right mind, that is, in his loving mind, would put it in this material and clinical way. Better the Poet who says, "love is a familiar; Love is a devil. There is no evil angel but Love." A bit more on love as sweet and musical: "and when Love speaks, the voice of all the gods, make heaven drowsy with the harmony." A more visual and contemporary slant on this might be the movie Spanglish, which I happened to see the other day with my twenty year daughter; we both "learned to read what silent love had writ." There is no real contradiction between the evil angel and the harmony, of course. And lovers (and madmen?) have such seething brains "Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend More than cool reason ever comprehends." Take the poetry out of this, you mortal fools, and you will banish your soul from your self for ever! Banish the scientists, and listen to the Poet:
"Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved."