Selfless love turns off brain's reward area, researchers say

Feb. 15, 2014 at 5:00 PM
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HARTFORD, Conn., Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine say selfless love turns off the area of the brain associated with reward.

While general feelings of love activate the same reward areas of the brain as cocaine, selfless love shuts that area down, CBS News reported.

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

Brewer and his colleague Kathleen Garrison, postdoctoral researcher in Yale's Department of Psychiatry, say their study is focused on how a person can turn off the brain's reward center by silently repeating sayings during meditation -- a common practice in Buddhism.

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

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