Meditation helps pinpoint neurological differences between two types of love

February 12, 2014 by Bill Hathaway
Meditation helps pinpoint neurological differences between two types of love
Credit: Shutterstock

(Medical Xpress)—These findings won't appear on any Hallmark card, but romantic love tends to activate the same reward areas of the brain as cocaine, research has shown.

Now Yale School of Medicine researchers studying meditators have found that a more selfless variety of love—a deep and genuine wish for the happiness of others without expectation of reward—actually turns off the same reward areas that light up when lovers see each other.

"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 interest, because it's not about us at all," said Judson Brewer, adjunct professor of psychiatry at Yale now at the University of Massachusetts.

Brewer and Kathleen Garrison, postdoctoral researcher in Yale's Department of Psychiatry, report their findings in a paper scheduled to be published online Feb. 12 in the journal Brain and Behavior.

The neurological boundaries between these two types of love become clear in fMRI scans of experienced meditators. The reward centers of the brain that are strongly activated by a lover's face (or a picture of cocaine) are almost completely turned off when a meditator is instructed to silently repeat sayings such as "May all beings be happy."

Such mindfulness meditations are a staple of Buddhism and are now commonly practiced in Western stress reduction programs, Brewer notes. The tranquility of this selfless love for others—exemplified in such religious figures such as Mother Theresa or the Dalai Llama—is diametrically opposed to the anxiety caused by a lovers' quarrel or extended separation. And it carries its own rewards.

"The intent of this practice is to specifically foster selfless —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."

Explore further: Tuning out: How brains benefit from meditation

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RobertKarlStonjek
not rated yet Feb 13, 2014
Repeating a phrase like "May all beings be happy." loses its meaning after a couple of repetitions which is why Buddhist Mindfulness meditation, in particular 'Loving Kindness' medication, does not use it.

After a couple of minutes the phrase might as well be "the garage door is open" for all the impact it has on the emotional state.

The correct technique is to visualise (for instance) a 'golden thread' coming from the heart and threading together all the people one can think of. One thinks of familiar people, those not liked, the poor, the disgusting and hated, the evil, the unborn children, the dead and so on.

This form of meditation is not a form of chanting. Chanting is associated with some Hindu practices, not Buddhist and especially not the Loving Kindness meditation.

It appears the researchers did not bother to check and see what Mindfulness meditation actual was before running of with their erroneous assumption and screwing up the study.

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