Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, Lucy Brown of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York and colleagues recorded the brain activity of 15 college-age adults who had recently been rejected by their love. The study subjects said despite the rejection, they were still intensely 'in love."
The researchers had the study subjects view photos of their former partners and the researchers saw several key areas of participants' brains were activated, including the parts involved in motivation and reward and involved in romantic love; craving and addiction -- specifically the dopaminergic reward system evident in cocaine addiction; and physical pain and distress.
The involvement of these parts of the brain may explain why some breakups can be so painful and hard to get over, the researchers said.
"Romantic love, under both happy and unhappy circumstances, may be a 'natural' addiction," Brown said in a statement. "Our findings suggest that the pain of romantic rejection may be a necessary part of life that nature built into our anatomy and physiology."