The Speed of Passionate Love, As a Subliminal Prime: A High-Density Electrical Neuroimaging Study
Stephanie Cacioppo, Scott T. Grafton, Franceco Bianchi-Demicheli
In line with the psychological model of self-expansion, recent neuroimaging evidence shows an overlap between the brain network mediating passionate love and that involved in self-representation. Nevertheless, little remains known about the temporal dynamics of these brain areas. To address this question, we recorded brain activity from 20 healthy participants using high-density electrophysiological recordings while participants were performing a cognitive priming paradigm known to activate the so-called love brain network. Our results show that when a person is feeling high passionate love, the subliminal presentation of their beloved’s name evokes specific brain states that are mediated by generators located in the pleasure, reward and cognitive brain pathways. More precisely, visual areas are activated in the first milliseconds after stimulus onset, then higher-order associative brain areas, such as those involved in self-related processes (e.g., the angular gyrus/temporo-parietal junction) are activated, and finally a flow of backward activation seems to occur from these associative brain areas to the primary visual and emotional brain areas. These results reinforce the neurofunctional top-down model of interpersonal relationships, suggesting that associative brain areas may prime more basic brain areas at a pre-conscious stage (i.e., starting at 80ms post-stimulus onset) of information processing. This raises the question of the various states of consciousness in people feeling in passionate love.