Love in Davos

MW �tell us a little bit about the buzz there.� ED �well the first thing to say is this World Economic Forum is just a gathering of investment bankers, businesspeople, politicians, officials, regulators, pretty well everybody and most of the talking is done in the coffee bars and atriums of the congress in rather informal sessions. But I think there has been a palpable sense of relief that the market instability we saw earlier in the week seems to have ended. My slight feeling is, I don't quite feel people have settled in their minds whether it's going to be a recession, a really bad recession, or a slow down that's perhaps tolerable.� MW �now among all these global economic gurus there are also many other forums taking place around Davos and I guess you can kind of call it a fringe festival.� ED �absolutely the right word for it. to be absolutely honest, quite a lot of the stuff you get on the sidelines is the most interesting stuff. They invite scientists and others just to update people and give an idea of what's going on in their area. And there's one that absolutely caught my eye, a session called �The Science of Love.� Helen Fisher, Rutgers University biological anthropologist was delivering the lecture and I thought the topic sounded so interesting I caught up with her in one of the coffee bars and asked her what she had been doing on the science of love.� HF �what I and my colleagues have done is we put 32 people who are madly in love into a functional MRI brain scanner. 17 who were madly in love and their love was accepted, and 15 who had just been rejected in love. And in fact now what we're doing is we're putting people in the machine who report that they're still in love after more than 20 years of marriage. And so we're beginning to understand what happens in the brain when you get that madness.� ED �and you can actually see a difference in this MRI scan?� HF �absolutely, I mean anyone on earth could even tell you that there's a difference. This is a basic brain system that evolved for a particular reason.� ED �and which way round does it go? Is it that the brain of some people is disposed to love and so they find love and the brains of others maybe not? Or is it that you find love and then your brain goes belly in the way you're finding in the MRI scan?� HF �well that's a metaphysical question but anytime you find anything there's something going on in the brain. But I think romantic love is one of three distinctly different brain systems that evolve from mating and reproduction. One is a sex drive, the other is romantic love, and the third is attachment. And I think they evolved for different reasons. Sex love evolved to get you out for a whole range of people, I think romantic love evolved in order to allow you to focus your mating energy on just one at a time and start the mating process, and then attachment evolved so that we can tolerate one another at least long enough to raise our children. It's a very strong brain system.� ED �when you measure love in the brain, are there other things that have the same brain response as love? Can you love is like eating chocolate, or is it similar to anything else?� HF �that's a great question because one of the things we've found among our people who are happily in love is we found activity in the tiny, little brain factory near the base of the brain in exactly the same area that becomes active when you feel the rush of cocaine. And when you're rejected in love we found activity in a brain region that's very close to an area that is standardly associated with addiction. So romantic love is a wonderful addiction when it's going well and a horrible one when it's going poorly.� MW �quite a reality check just a couple of weeks away from Valentine's Day. I've got to ask you, what's your brain scan going to tell you about yourself once you leave Davos?� ED �Well I didn't have a brain scan I'm glad to say, I was shy about these things. But I think as we leave Davos the mood is probably a little better than we arrived. But a big question mark for many and that will be true of those in love, those out of love, and those who are just having affairs.�