This is the transcript and summary of Helen Fisher’s talk titled “The Brain in Love” at TED conference.
Helen Fisher – Anthropologist, Researcher
I and my colleagues Art Aron and Lucy Brown and others, have put 37 people who are madly in love into a functional MRI brain scanner. 17 who were happily in love, 15 who had just been dumped, and we’re just starting our third experiment: studying people who report that they’re still in love after 10 to 25 years of marriage.
So, this is the short story of that research. In the jungles of Guatemala, in Tikal, stands a temple. It was built by the grandest Sun King, of the grandest city-state, of the grandest civilization of the Americas, the Mayas. His name was Jasaw Chan K’awiil. He stood over six feet tall. He lived into his 80s, and he was buried beneath this monument in 720 AD. And Mayan inscriptions proclaim that he was deeply in love with his wife.
So, he built a temple in her honor, facing his. And every spring and autumn, exactly at the equinox, the sun rises behind his temple, and perfectly bathes her temple with his shadow. And as the sun sets behind her temple in the afternoon, it perfectly bathes his temple with her shadow. After 1,300 years, these two lovers still touch and kiss from their tomb.
Around the world, people love. They sing for love, they dance for love, they compose poems and stories about love. They tell myths and legends about love. They pine for love, they live for love, they kill for love, and they die for love. As Walt Whitman once said, “O I would stake all for you.”
Anthropologists have found evidence of romantic love in 170 societies. They’ve never found a society that did not have it. But love isn’t always a happy experience. In one study of college students, they asked a lot of questions about love, but the two that stood out to me the most were: “Have you ever been rejected by somebody who you really loved?”