London - Romantics may insist they knew it all along – but scientists claim to have identified a neurological difference between love and lust.
While lust triggers the part of the brain that responds to pleasure, it seems love lights up the region that gives pleasure meaning.
The finding comes from the first detailed map of love and desire in the brain, drawn by looking at what happens when volunteers view either erotic pictures or photographs of their loved ones.
Data from 20 studies revealed that two structures, the insula and striatum, play key roles in sexual desire and love.
And the striatum, found towards the side of the brain, is central to both emotions.
Sexual desire triggers part of the striatum that responds not just to pleasures of the flesh, but also to those of food.
In contrast, the area activated by love is involved in attaching value to the things that give us pleasure.
However, love is not entirely pure. The part of the striatum involved in processing love is also involved in drug addiction, the Journal of Sexual Medicine reports.
The researchers, from Montreal’s Concordia University, explain this by describing love as a habit formed when sexual desire is rewarded.
Professor Jim Pfaus said that while advances in science have given researchers a deep understanding of where intelligence and problem solving sit in the brain, there is still a lot to discover when it comes to love.
He added: “I see this paper as a cornerstone in what I hope will turn into more studies in human social neuroscience that can give us an idea of where love is in the brain.” - Daily Mail