Lovers' hearts beat in sync, study says

UC Davis Psychologist Jonathan Helm and a student set up machinery to study heart rates and respiration in romantic couples. Credit: Emilio Ferrer/UC Davis

(Medical Xpress)—When modern-day crooner Trey Songz sings, "Cause girl, my heart beats for you," in his romantic ballad, "Flatline," his lyrics could be telling a tale that's as much physiological as it is emotional, according to a University of California, Davis, study that found lovers' hearts indeed beat for each other, or at least at the same rate.

Emilio Ferrer, a UC Davis who has conducted a series of studies on couples in , found that couples connected to monitors measuring heart rates and respiration get their in sync, and they breathe in and out at the same intervals.

To collect the data, the researchers conducted a series of exercises, sitting 32 a few feet away from each other in a quiet, calm room. The couples did not speak or touch.

"We've seen a lot of research that one person in a relationship can experience what the other person is experiencing emotionally, but this study shows they also share experiences at a physiological level," Ferrer said.

The couples, in one of the exercises, were asked to sit across from each other and mimic each other, but still not speak, and researchers collected very similar results.

The researchers also mixed up the data from the couples. When the two individuals were not from the same couple, their hearts did not show , nor did their breathing closely match.

Additionally, both partners showed similar patterns of heart rate and respiration, but women tended to adjust theirs to their partners more. This was true not only for physiological but for day-to-day as well.

"In other words, we found that women adjust in relationship to their partners," said Jonathan Helm, a UC Davis psychology doctoral student and primary author of the study. "Her heart rate is linked to her partner's. I think it means women have a strong link to their partners—perhaps more empathy."

The research was published in two recent papers by the American Psychological Association, available at: and .

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1 / 5 (2) Feb 11, 2013
I am not particularly surprised.

Breathing is adjusted to facilitate conversation, and the heart follows.
1 / 5 (2) Feb 11, 2013
""In other words, we found that women adjust in relationship to their partners," said Jonathan Helm, a UC Davis psychology doctoral student and primary author of the study. "Her heart rate is linked to her partner's. I think it means women have a strong link to their partners—perhaps more empathy."

Always go a little further than the data demonstrates. Maybe--evolutionarily speaking--males need to be more on alert for rivals and predators so need to avoid lowering and raising their heart rate as much to avoid being overly calm or too excited at a given moment. Inferring emotional state or capacity just gives one a chance to reaffirm one's bias.
2 / 5 (3) Feb 12, 2013
What's even more (or less) romantic/animalistic and also may be evidence of quantum entanglement is the fact that hormone levels are entrained in men and women:

from a book description of "Reproductive hormone levels and sexual behavior of young couples during the menstrual cycle (1977)."

"What is the significance of this periodic fluctuation in the male's T? Several possibilities can be suggested: (1) the husband's testosterone level has become entrained to the wife's menstrual cycle reflecting the pair bonding of the two partners, or (2) a form of communication exists between the two partners whereby the female informs the male that she has ovulated and he responds, like the dominant rhesus monkey, with an increase in his testosterone level facilitating his entire sexual response cycle. These two hypotheses are not necessarily antithetical; in fact, they may be highly compatible in that the first possibility provides a mechanism to reenforce the couple's pair bonding..."
not rated yet Feb 16, 2013
JVK, your
What's even more (or less) romantic/animalistic and also may be evidence of quantum entanglement is the fact that hormone levels are entrained in men and women

Read more at: http://medicalxpr...html#jCp

Forget the 'quantum entanglement'; pheromones are what mediate this process [ie airborne signalling molecules].

But thank you for this bit of info because it answers for me the question I have wondered about for many years as to why fertile women living together generally find their menstrual cycles synchronising.

I now surmise that it enhances the women's chances of getting pregnant [in a neo cultural hunter gatherer ecological niche, such as was the case I assume for our lot from several million years ago until the advent of agriculture and social classes.]
1 / 5 (1) Feb 16, 2013
I'm always willing to forget the 'quantum entanglement' and focus on the biological facts. Adaptive evolution is nutrient-dependent and controlled by the metabolism of the nutrients to species specific pheromones. However, when extended across species from microbes to man, the required ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction that leads to heart synchronization suggests there may be some applicable theory that links physics to the biological basis of adaptive evolution and to genetically predisposed love.
not rated yet Feb 17, 2013
JVK, I tend to think that empathy is the underlying process, but exactly how empathy works is still a subject of growing investigation. Direct observation of the significant other is obviously key to it all but most of the activity, the signalling and responding is completely unconscious. I think perhaps in humans women in general are more aware of nuances as they occur. I like the concept of 'locking on to the target' which of course is analogous to radar and infra red guided missile technology. In mammals and birds there is a whole lot of complicated interaction between internal biochemistry and brain and sensory neuronal circuit tuning, which ends up, as you say, with pair bonding, mutual imprinting and mutual support.

At a tangent to this, but basically much related is the subject of a new research paper published about the involvement of pheromones connecting children to their mothers:
1 / 5 (1) Feb 17, 2013
Thanks for the link. My model of adaptive evolution of the brain and behavior includes aspects of disordered development common to autism and also to neurodegenerative disease.



We used a similar study design (video taped interactions) in ovulatory phase women to show the affect on behavior of a mixture of androsterone and androstenol worn by a male confederate during a fifteen minute interaction. Women also reported increased attraction.

The explanation for the pheromone-enhanced difference follows from the classical conditioning of responses to olfactory/pheromonal input that are genetically predisposed from birth to occur during exposure to other sensory input. But cause and effect is clearly olfactory/pheromonal in species from microbes to man.

Focus on oxytocin in pro-sociality is not useful.

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