Monday, October 25, 2010
A new analysis of a collection of studies suggests falling in love is a quantifiable action, with the brain releasing measurable euphoria-inducing chemicals.
The meta-analysis conducted by Syracuse University professor Stephanie Ortigue is called “The Neuroimaging of Love.”
Findings suggest falling in love can elicit not only the same euphoric feeling as using cocaine, but also affects intellectual areas of the brain.
Researchers also found falling in love only takes about a fifth of a second.
Results from Ortigue’s team revealed when a person falls in love, 12 areas of the brain work in tandem to release euphoria-inducing chemicals such as dopamine, oxytocin, adrenaline and vasopression.
The love feeling also affects sophisticated cognitive functions, such as mental representation, metaphors and body image.
The findings beg the question, “Does the heart fall in love, or the brain?”
“That’s a tricky question always,” says Ortigue.
“I would say the brain, but the heart is also related because the complex concept of love is formed by both bottom-up and top-down processes from the brain to the heart and vice versa.
“For instance, activation in some parts of the brain can generate stimulations to the heart, butterflies in the stomach. Some symptoms we sometimes feel as a manifestation of the heart may sometimes be coming from the brain.”
Other researchers also found blood levels of nerve growth factor, or NGF, also increased. Those levels were significantly higher in couples who had just fallen in love. This molecule plays an important role in the social chemistry of humans, or the phenomenon of ‘love at first sight.’
“These results confirm love has a scientific basis,” says Ortigue.
The findings have major implications for neuroscience and mental health research because when love doesn’t work out, it can be a significant cause of emotional stress and depression.
“It’s another probe into the brain and into the mind of a patient,” says Ortigue. “By understanding why they fall in love and why they are so heartbroken, they can use new therapies.”
By identifying the parts of the brain stimulated by love, doctors and therapists can better understand the pains of lovesick patients.
The study also shows different parts of the brain fall in love. For example, unconditional love, such as that between a mother and a child, is sparked by both common and different brain areas, including the middle of the brain. Passionate love is sparked by the reward part of the brain, and also associative cognitive brain areas that have higher-order cognitive functions, such as body image.
Ortigue and her team worked with a team from West Virginia University and a university hospital in Switzerland.
The results of the study are published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
ScienceDaily — A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that ads featuring beauty products actually lower female consumers' self-esteem
"One of the signature strengths of the advertising industry lies in its ability to transform seemingly mundane objects into highly desirable products," write authors Debra Trampe (University of Groningen, the Netherlands), Diederik A. Stapel (Tilburg University), and Frans W. Siero (University of Groningen). In an advertisement, a lipstick situated next to a stiletto heel represents glamour and a teddy bear in an ad for fabric softener signals softness.
The authors conducted four experiments to examine the different meanings consumers gleaned from products that were advertised versus not advertised. In one study, the authors exposed female study participants to either a beauty-enhancing product (eye shadow, perfume) or a problem-solving product (acne concealer, deodorant).The product was either embedded in an advertisement (with a shiny background and a fake brand name) or it was depicted against a neutral white background. "After exposure to the advertised beauty-enhancing products consumers were more likely to think about themselves than when they viewed the same products outside of their advertisements."
What's more, those advertisements affected how consumers thought about themselves. "After viewing an advertisement featuring an enhancing product consumers evaluated themselves less positively than after seeing these products when they appeared without the advertising context," the authors write. The same effect did not show up when the items were problem-solving products.
Ads for beauty-enhancing products seem to make consumers feel that their current attractiveness levels are different from what they would ideally be. "Consumers seem to 'compare' themselves to the product images in advertisements, even though the advertisement does not include a human model," the authors write.
"Exposure to beauty-enhancing products in advertisements lowered consumers' self-evaluations, in much the same way as exposure to thin and attractive models in advertisements has been found to lower self-evaluations," the authors conclude.