A new study has revealed that being rejected by a romantic partner activates brain activity connected with motivation, reward and addiction.
Led by Dr. Lucy Brown, Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, the study is the third from her team to demonstrate that primitive reward and survival systems are activated in people who look at their beloved.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers recorded the brain activity of 15 college-age adults who had recently been rejected by their partners but reported that they were still intensely "in love."
By tying these specific areas of the brain to romantic rejection, the research provides insight into the anguished feelings that can accompany a break-up, as well as the extreme behaviours that can occur as a result, such as stalking, homicide and suicide.
"Romantic love, under both happy and unhappy circumstances, may be a 'natural' addiction. Our findings suggest that the pain of romantic rejection may be a necessary part of life that nature built into our anatomy and physiology. A natural recovery, to pair up with someone else, is in our physiology, too," said Brown.
The study has been published in the latest issue of the Journal of Neurophysiology.