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Love, sex, your brain and sociopaths

Ever since the beginning of recorded history, humans have been trying to understand and explain the mysteries of love and sex. Over the past few decades, scientists started using specialized equipment to measure physical arousal by attaching devices to private parts. More recently, they’ve been observing the most important romantic organ in the human body—the brain.

Forbes wrote about the research of Andreas Bartels, Ph.D., at the Imperial College of London. Bartels used a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine, which can capture images of brain activity, to pinpoint the areas of the brain that are activated by love.

Bartles did a study of 17 people who were madly in love. He had the test subjects look at photos of platonic friends and of their loved ones while he observed activity in their brains. The resulting images clearly showed that certain sections of the brain are stimulated by love.

The scientist then did another study to observe the brains of mothers looking at their infants. The images showed that exactly the same areas of the brain were stimulated by maternal love, except for an area in the hypothalamus in the base of the brain that seems to be linked to sexual arousal.

The conclusion, therefore, is that specific areas of the brain light up at the prospect of love.

Bartels also noticed something else: When the test subjects were feeling love, certain areas of the brain were turned off. The scans showed that three regions of the brain generally associated with moral judgment go dim.

Chemistry of love

Then there’s the chemistry of love. Helen Fisher, Ph.D., a professor at Rutgers University, has written that three networks in the brain, and their associated neurotransmitters, are associated with love. They are:

  • Lust—the craving for sexual gratification, which is linked to testosterone in both men and women.
  • Romantic attraction—the elation and yearning of new love, which is linked to the natural stimulants dopamine and norepinephrine, and low activity in serotonin.
  • Attachment—the calm emotional union with a long-term partner, which is linked to oxytocin and vasopressin.

Fisher also did a study using fMRI technology. She scanned the brains of 40 men and women who were wildly in love. When these people gazed at photos of their beloved, the scans showed increased activity in the areas of the brain that produce dopamine. This neurochemical is associated with feelings of excessive energy, elation, focused attention and motivation to win rewards.

Dopamine, by the way, is also the neurotransmitter associated with addiction.

Effects of arousal

Research has also proven what we’ve probably all experienced—sexual arousal can make us throw caution to the winds.

In another study using fMRI technology, Dr. Ken Maravilla of the University of Washington found that sexual arousal dims down the parts of the brain that control inhibition and, perhaps, moral judgment.

“These are things that keep you in line, and in arousal they may become less active, allowing you to become more aroused,” Maravilla said, as quoted by Wired Magazine.

In a paper called, The Heat of the Moment: The Effect on Sexual Arousal on Sexual Decision Making, Dan Ariely, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and George Lowenstein, of Carnegie Mellon University, documented that being sexually turned on affected the judgment of college-aged men. (Well, duh …)

Specifically, Ariely and Lowenstein found that, “the increase in motivation to have sex produced by sexual arousal seems to decrease the relative importance of other considerations, such as behaving ethically toward a potential sexual partner or protecting oneself against unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease.”

But another of their findings was, “people seem to have only limited insight into the impact of sexual arousal on their own judgments and behavior.” In other words, most of us don’t appreciate how strong the sex urges are, and how they can make us do things that perhaps we shouldn’t be doing.

Sociopathic seduction

So let’s look at all this information in the context of our relationships with sociopaths.

Two of the main strategies that sociopaths use to snare us are love and sex. They emphatically proclaim their love and consciously seduce us into having sex. So what happens?

  • Love causes specific areas of the brain light up, and at the same time, areas associated with morals and judgment go dim.
  • The areas of the brain that produce dopamine become active, and dopamine is related to addiction.
  • Sexual arousal dims the parts of the brain responsible for inhibition and judgment that might prevent us from making bad choices.
  • We don’t recognize the impact that sexual urges have on our judgment and behavior.

Dr. Helen Fisher writes that the three primary brain systems associated with love evolved over the ages to play different roles in courtship, mating, reproduction and parenting. They are Nature’s way of ensuring the survival of the human species.

Sociopaths convincingly proclaim their enduring love and their sexual desire for us. Not realizing the pervasive deceit of these predators, we believe that they love us. We have sex with them, and the sex is great. Many Lovefraud readers have been amazed at the sociopath’s sexual appetite and prowess.

Therefore, sociopaths hijack our brain through our feelings of love and the bonds of sex. In their seductions, they turn the natural psychological and chemical functions of our brains against us.



500 Comments on "Love, sex, your brain and sociopaths"

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  1. Ethical says:

    Men to steer clear of–Liars, Cheats, and the like…How to detect a con artist on the street, on-line and in the bed…Red Flags to watch out for:
    Over my lifetime, I had always been introverted and typically only trusted very “safe”, stable relationships. I had a pretty abusive upbringing an I just felt awkard and unusual from all of theverbal and psychological abuse. From early on, I had been exposed to the inconsistencies of growing up with an often unemployed, Bipolar father and an overbearing, enabling father. I was the middle child, and as such, was labeled with the title of the scape goat. Internalizing this message, I became Anorexic when I was 13 and after 3 months of hospitalization and return to hope and self esteem, returning to my same household brought out all of my insecurities all over again. I simply did not have a space to co-exist, and spent all of my time in the gym. In high school, I did find my niche and joined cross-country. Running became my refuge. I was still shy, and introverted, but I finally had a great social circle and I completely invested myself in my dedication to the sport. I had trained to the point of injury and no return. I currently can no longer run, but did discover my 1st boyfriend that way. He was great and everything went well, but I tended to depend on him for everything. He had wanted to get married, but I was only 18 at the time and while I knew that i had wanted to escape from my past and distance myself from my family, I knew it would not be the right decision.
    Anyhow, I went to away to my city’s university and continued to study. I was afraid to enter the real world, so going to school just meant prolonging the process of going out into a world that seemed cold and harsh. I feared reliving the pattern of my father–and since my mother didn’t work, I viewed my prospects of being even fewer. I just didn’t have a solid base of life’s experiences, and my dysfunctional family left me feeling lost, confused, afraid, alone and vulnerable.
    Anyhow, I was antisocial, and my original relationship laste fr 3 years. I dated casually for a while after turning 21, but then returned to very safe relationships. I was engaged for a year, but then I realized that my life would not get any better even with a great, stable husband. I broke off the engagement and started to take more risks to find out who I really was as an individual…and this is where all of my problems began.
    I met him, Mr. Pharmaceutical on-line. I thought he had a lot of charm and looked innocent. He looked a little nerd-like, as he sat next to an old gateway computer–which was exactly the way I like them. he looked respectable and ….
    I’ll continue the details later…I guess just starting to write about this has helped clear my mind



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  2. Ethical says:

    Mr Pharmaceutical continued…
    My on-line heart throb was average in the looks department, but he was absolutely adorable to me. He seemed like the perfect snap-shot of what I would want in a husband–he seemd smart, professional, conservative, balanced, well-thought, and family oriented. Aside from posing in front of his Gateway computer, he also had photos of himself posing next to the side of his niece (though when I looked back at his picture after my sense of betratyal–I realized he wasn’t sitting all that close to the child) and had one in front of a business conference building. I admit, I should have delved a little deeper, but I just wanted to meet up as soon as possible–I thought that there could be no potential harm. However, the title did seem a little redudant “Honest guy looking for the same”…this just seemed as if he was trying to prove himself, from the beginning, to be something so contrary to what he was. Anyhow, I also felt pretty creeped out by the line that read “private in public and kinky in private…or something like that.
    Anyway, I didn’t answer any of his on-line preceding questions. I thought this guy must not date very often if he were to ask me “describe yourself as if you were a commercial”…that mentality should have been a huge red flag telling me that he only looks at women as if they were commercial products, to be bought, sold, and bargained.
    Anyhow, we met up in the summer of 2007. He took me to the movie “All Knocked-Up”, I thought it was quite childish for someone in his mid-30’s, but I was not one to judge. Anyhow, he took me to an impressive restaurant and invited me to a corporate picnic. I thought, he must be so innocent to trust me so quicklu. That is so adorable. He must not have much dating exerience and I must really mean something to him.
    anyhow, on our second date he had agreed to pick me up. Even though I was not running late, he reportedly said that he lost his patience with me and actually drove off when I didn’t pick up my cell phone only minutes before he had arrived. I thought that was odd, but still felt obligated to apologize and then added that I had ADHD. He took me to SixFlags for his corporate picnic, at which time, he began to show moments of degradation sugar-coated as being jokes. They were all said still with this charming white smile as he physicallly came close to embrace me. You remind me of my sister–she has absolutely no idea of where she is going in life”….and after describing that I would be going through surgery in december…in front of his friends said… dont worry about being carried up the steps in December. I’ll be over you by the (which, as predicted, he did not carry me up the steps after a major reconstrictive foot surgery–in fact, he was far gone–out of th state by then.



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  3. skylar says:

    Hi Ethical,
    I understand what you are describing. Coming from a dysfunctional family, you did not want to repeat the cycle but because N’s confuse their kids with lies, you could not possibly see what that cycle really was. It was not what it appeared.

    I think I was in a similar situation.
    at 17, I also was engaged to a safe, young man. So I left him, looking to discover more about people and the world and I met the P. Never knew what hit me. 25 years later…I’m waking up from fantasy land.

    They see what your family didn’t give you and then they prey on that need. They also use it as a bargaining chip. They know you need it and will fixate on it, so they withhold it to make you dance like a puppet. All this just for the fun of it. It seems to make them feel better.

    With so many P’s around I’m starting to feel like I live in an insane asylum!



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  4. justabouthealed says:

    Welcome Ethical. I’m so sorry you got involved with a bad man. Yes, the red flags are a LOT easier to see in retrospect. But until you know about these types, it is hard to put it altogether at the time! Hope you keep posting, it really helps with the healing.



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  5. neveragain says:

    Here is another great article about the addictive power of even normal love, AND the comment that is on there now, below the article, amazingly refers to sociopaths and psychopaths!

    http://news.nationalpost.com/2010/07/07/love-is-addictive-whether-for-good-or-bad-study/



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