The other night I watched a TED talk given by anthropologist Helen Fisher who has studied the brains of people who are “madly in love” to see just exactly what’s going on in the their heads. As you might imagine, her results are fascinating.

Fisher is an anthropology professor and human behavior researcher at the Rutgers University who is widely regarded to be the one of the world’s leading expert on the topic of romantic love. She describes love as a universal human drive that is stronger than the sex drive, as well as thirst or hunger, and possibly even the will to live.

Using an MRI scanner Fisher has anylized the brains of 37 “madly in love” people, 17 of whom were happily in love and 15 who were in “bad shape” after having just been dumped. More recently she has examined the brain scans of 5 people who said they were still in love after 10-25 years of marriage.

In her 15 minute TED talk (shown above) Fisher calls love “life’s greatest prize” that has “all the characteristics of an addiction.” Asked if love is spoiled for her due to all her inside knowledge of its workings she compares love to chocolate saying that while you might know what makes a great chocolate cake that doesn’t detract at all from your enjoyment of it.

So, given it’s chemical complexity and it’s emotional power, maybe the following simple sounding question is in actual fact so difficult and complex that I should expect no answers, but out of pure curiosity I’ll ask it nonetheless. In your life, considering your experience, expectations and understandings, what is love?

Another (earlier) TED talk on love by Helen Fisher
Helen Fisher’s website
Why We Love by Helen Fisher