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Where Love Lives In The Brain

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Do you really love someone, or are you just sexually attracted to them?

Scientists have found a way to tell the difference between the two in the brain.

Researchers from Concordia University, the University of Geneva, West Virginia University and Syracuse University have found that when a person is experiencing love and sexual desire, a part of the brain called the striatum is activated. However, different parts of this brain region are activated by these two emotions.

Specifically, sexual desire activates a part of the brain region typically activated by pleasurable things like food or sex.

Meanwhile, love activates a part of the brain that plays a role in pairing value with these rewarding or pleasurable things.

"Love is actually a habit that is formed from sexual desire as desire is rewarded," study researcher Jim Pfaus, professor of psychology at Concordia University, said in a statement.

The Journal of Sexual Medicine study was based on 20 other studies that involved having study participants look at images of their significant others and/or erotic images while having their brain activity examined.

Recently, CNN reported on a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study showing that parents' love can help their children's hippocampus -- a brain region where bigger is better -- to grow.

Dr. Charles Raison, CNN's mental health expert and psychiatry professor at the University of Arizona, wrote on CNN:

Other things being equal, having small hippocampi increases your risk for all sorts of troubles, from depression and post traumatic stress disorder to Alzheimer’s disease. If you’ve got depression, having small hippocampi predicts that you won’t respond as well to antidepressants as well as depressed people with larger hippocampi.

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