Brain scans show love and passion still burning brightly after 20 years.
Cynical about love?
Scientists have discovered that people can have a love that lasts a lifetime.
Brain scans have proven that a small number of couples can respond with as much passion after 20 years as most people exhibit only in the first flush of love, Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper has reported.
The findings overturn the conventional view that love and sexual desire peak at the start of a relationship and then decline as the years pass.
A team from Stony Brook University in New York scanned the brains of couples who had been together for 20 years and compared them with those of new lovers.
About 10 per cent of the mature couple exhibited the same chemical reactions when shown photographs of their loved ones as people commonly do in the early stages of a relationship.
Previous research suggested that the first stages of romantic love - a roller-coaster ride of mood swings and obsessions that psychologists call limerence – start to fade within 15 months. After 10 years, the chemical tide has ebbed away.
Those research also laid out the “fracture points” in relationships as 12 to 15 months, three years and the infamous seven-year itch.
The latest scans of some of the long-term couples, however reveal that elements of limerence mature enabling them to enjoy what a new report calls “intensive companionship and sexual liveliness.”
The researchers nicknamed the couples “swans” because they have similar mental “love maps” to animals that made for life such as swans, voles and gray foxes.
The reactions of the “swans” to pictures of their beloved were identified on MRI brain scans as a burst of pleasure-producing dopamine more commonly seen in couples gripped in the first flush of lust.
“The findings go against the traditional view of romance – that it drops sharply in the first decade – but we are sure it’s real,” said psychologist Arthur Aron at Stony Brook.
Dr Aron said when he firsts interviewed people claiming they were still in love after an average of 21 years, he thought they were fooling themselves.
“But this is what the brain scans tell us, and people can’t fake that,” he said.