"I love you with all my heart" is not really true as the ability to love resides in the brain. Just recently, researchers have been able to figure out where love, and lust, is actually located in the brain.
Love is a mental function controlled by the brain. Much like how language or our senses are controlled by different parts of the brain so too are emotions such as anger, sadness and happiness. What part of the brain controls love was not understood until recently thanks to advancements in technology. Thanks to new research you may be saying "I love you with all my striatum."
The research in mapping out where love resides in the brain was led by Jim Pfaus, PhD, professor of psychology at Concordia University. Researchers looked at 20 different studies to help chart out what part of the brain love calls home. The studies involved researchers examining brain activity as people looked at erotic photos or looked at photos of loved ones.
The researchers discovered that the insula and striatum are related to love and sexual desire. Sexual desire and love activate different areas of the striatum. The part of the striatum that is stimulated by pleasurable activities such as food or sex was also stimulated by sexual desire while the part of the striatum which is involved with conditioned behaviors, where pleasurable or rewarding experiences are given value was stimulated as love. Over time, as sexual desire becomes more than just lust it will trigger a different part of the striatum.
The researchers also discovered that this part of the striatum was also associated with drug addiction. The researchers believe that love is definitely like a drug, it's a habit based on rewarding behavior. In love's case it comes as a reward from sexual desire.
Love is also very important in different brain functions. Love can help activate different parts of the brain that are related to monogamy and pair bonding. Interestingly, some parts of the brain are more active when people feel sexual desire when compared to feeling love. The reason for this is that the complex nature of love does not require the object of affection to be around whereas desire is very specific.
Love grows from desire, figuratively and literally, as it travels to one part of the striatum to another part of the striatum. Love is still difficult to grasp and future research can help better understand love, where it resides in the brain and what effect it has on the brain.
The study was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.