Study: Selfless Love Turns Off Brain’s Reward Area

NEW HAVEN, CT (CBS Connecticut) – Research shows that the feeling of love activates the same reward areas of the brain as cocaine.

Researchers from the Yale School of Medicine have found a new variety of love; one that is selfless and that turns off that area of reward.

“When we truly, selflessly wish for the well-being of others, we’re not getting that same rush of excitement that comes with, say, a tweet from our romantic love interest, because it’s not about us at all,” Judson Brewer, adjunct professor of psychiatry at Yale now at the University of Massachusetts told the Yale News.

Brewer, along with Kathleen Garrison, postdoctoral researcher in Yale’s Department of Psychiatry, explain in their study how the reward center of the brain can be turned off when a meditator can silently repeat sayings.

These practices are common in Buddhism, and are now being used frequently in the Western world in certain programs to help reduce stress.

“The intent of this practice is to specifically foster selfless love – just putting it out there and not looking for or wanting anything in return,” Brewer said. “If you’re wondering where the reward is in being selfless, just reflect on how it feels when you see people out there helping others, or even when you hold the door for somebody the next time you are at Starbucks.”

The study is scheduled to be published online in the journal Brain and Behavior.

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