Neuroscientist Thomas Crook suggests that once the infatuation fails and the romance is gone, you try reigniting your love by learning a language or tackling a home project. Doesn't sound like much fun? Maybe not, but it could make you smarter…
All loved up
Thomas Crook says that during the early stages of love, changes occur in the brain that are not conductive to intellectual pursuits in fact, the feelings of euphoria make it almost impossible to concentrate on anything other than your new love.
Research has found that these euphoric feelings are enhanced by the activation of the areas of the brain that are rich in the chemical dopamine, which produces powerful pleasurable sensations. People in the early stages of a romance only have to glance at a photo of their loved one to spur the release of this feel-good chemical.
Unfortunately, the fuzzy feelings don't last long and when a relationship begins to mature these dopamine-rich parts of the brain gradually become less responsive. For the relationship to continue and be successful, it needs to not only be based on the highs experienced as a result of the earth-shattering dopamine, but must also be built on love, respect and experience. That's right, it's not just about the occasional candlelit dinner; research suggests it's also about learning and discovering new things together. In fact, while the dopamine area of the brain becomes less active, the area that lights up in these later stages of love is the cortex, where information is stored and rational decisions are made.
Keeping the love alive
Want to keep the love alive and stimulate your brain at the same time? Try these relationship-strengthening activities:
- Dancing lessons: a mental and physical challenge makes a great brain workout.
- See a movie: research shows men and women use different parts of the brain when they watch a film, making for an interesting discussion on the way home from the cinema.
- Throw a party: talking about the events of the night before will activate areas of the brain involved with learning and memory.
- Learn a language together: a great brain-stimulating activity. Challenge each other by gradually incorporating new words or phrases into your conversations.
- Tackle a home project together: a relationship-building way to learn more about each other's skills.