In a new study published by the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience that involved 17 study participants who were part of couples married on average 21 years who claimed to be just as in love, just as passionate about their partner as when they first fell in love, might not just be saying it. Their brain scans show that it is true and that this kind of love can last and not become companionate love over time.
The study had the participants gaze at photos of their spouses, whom they had been married to for 10 years or more, and while doing so an MRI of their brain was taken. This MRI demonstrated the same responses as the brains of those who were said to have just fallen madly in love. The couples in the study weren't just people who said they loved their spouse. These were people who sad they were still madly in love with their spouse. The kind where they couldn't keep their hands off each other. The kind where they tended to embarrass their friends by how they behave when they are together. Like teenagers who have just fallen in love. But the MRI results for these people and people who were just in the throes of passionate love, were the same, and yet different in one significant way.
The MRI showed that segments of the brain that controlled dopamine production were lit up when these spouses looked at photos of their beloveds. The region of the brain that shows maternal instinct and pair bonding was lit up. The area of the brain associated with sexual activity that showed hunger and craving was lit up. However, areas associated with obsession and anxiety were lit up less than those of the study participants who claimed to be newly in love. Instead, the brain areas associated with feelings of calm were more lit up for the long time lovers.
Since this study was conducted on a small number of people and at one single time in their lives, it may be an over reach to apply it to years of love. It may be true that these couples who may be experiencing the "empty nest" syndrome, may also experience a rebirth of love feelings in the newness of being alone once again after children are gone from the house. It may be that, people can fall madly in love again, after time and these people were caught at that specific time (unlikely to catch all these people falling in love again at the same time). Or it may be true that there are those who can still be madly, wildly in love after many years of marriage and that it's just not talk or all for show.
One thing is certain, the people in this study definitely had love on the brain.