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Will Your Love Last Forever? Brain Scans Could Predict How Long New Couples Will Stay Together

Update Date: Feb 11, 2013 03:08 PM EST

Scientists have discovered that brain scans could reveal whether people have truly found long-lasting love.

Using brain scans to look at the brain activity of different people who have recently fallen in love, researchers were able to accurately predict whether the couples would still be together after three years later.

The study revealed that even if participants thought they were head-over-heels in love with their new partners, scientists were able to determine whether those feelings were strong enough for the relationship to last by analyzing the level of participants' neuronal activity on brain scans.

In the study, researchers showed the study participants photographs of their partner.  Participants were asked to think of memories of their partners while their brains were scanned.

The findings, published in the journal Neuroscience Letters, found that when participants showed more activity in the caudate tail area, a brain region that reacts emotionally to visual beauty, and less activity in their medial orbitofrontal cortex, the brain region linked to criticism and judgment, their relationship tended to last longer than participants with brain scans that showed different activity.

Shockingly, the study found that couples who ended up staying together for longer showed less activity in their brain regions associated with pleasure. Researchers explain that this could be because deactivation or reduced activity in the brains pleasure regions, which is often associated with addiction and seeking rewards, has been linked to satiety and satisfaction.

Results of the study indicated that of the 12 participants studied, half of them remained in a relationship after the three-year study period.

Researcher Professor Arthur Aron, a social psychologist at Stony Brook University in Long Island, New York, said that the latest findings could potentially help those having relationship problems.

"The brain is so complex that we are still quite a way from being able to very precisely pick out these qualities, but it does allow us to get at what is really going on inside someone aside from what they tell us," Aron said, according to The Telegraph.

"We may eventually get to a point where we can recognize things that the person doesn't recognize themselves and we can say that they are not as intensely attached to a person as they think they are," he said.

"All of those involved in the study felt very intensely in love with their partner and this was reflected in their scans, but there were some subtle indicators that showed how stable those feeling were," he explained. "If that strong feeling was combined with signs that they could regulate emotions, to see the partner positively and deal with conflict, then it seems to be really productive in staying with the person."

Lead author Xiaomeng Xu, of Brown University in Rhode Island, said that different factors in the early stages of romantic love "seem to play a major role in the development and longevity of the relationship," according to the Daily Mail.

"Our data provides preliminary evidence that neural responses in the early stages of romantic love can predict relationship stability and quality up to 40 months later," Xu said.

"The brain regions involved suggest that reward functions may be predictive for relationship stability," Xu added.

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