The Love Competition: Who Loves the Most, Determined Scientifically

Here’s a short film by Brent Hoff (editor of the DVD magazine Wholphin) showing a competition to see who can produce the most love, as determined by MRI scans of their brains. Each of the competitors was given five minutes in an fMRI machine, during which time they had to think of someone they loved and “love them as hard as they could”.

neurochemical pathways of love

The MRI would be used to monitor those areas of the brain involved in producing the neurochemicals associated with love – dopamine, serotonin, ocytocin and vasopressin – and measure their output. These pathways converge in a spot called the nucleus accumbens, which is one of the parts of the brains that would be watched closely. The winner, at least by the objective standard of this competition, would be the person who generated the most activity in those brain parts.

bob dougherty

The competition took place at Stanford’s Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Imaging with the help of research director Bob Dougherty and scientific director Melina Uncapher.

fmri scans

Among the people in the competition: a 75-year-old man who was happily married for 50 years, the young woman with a new sweetheart, a student who’s never been in love but likes to think about it in abstract terms, a ten-year-old boy thinking of his newborn cousin and a guy trying to get over his ex (my heart went out to this poor fella). What was just as interesting as the results were how the people in the competition reacted to the whole experience.

I’m going to leave it up to the neuroscientists and philosophers to debate whether or not you can actually measure love with an MRI and delve into the “Do we really have souls, or its it just chemicals?” debate, and they’re free to do so in the comments.

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