Kevin Berger in Nautilus:
Helen Fisher first appeared in Nautilus in 2015 with her article, “Casual Sex May Be Improving America’s Marriages.” Since then we’ve interviewed the biological anthropologist a host of times, anxious to hear her insights into the ties that bind and fray. Fisher made her name in popular science in 1992 with her book, Anatomy of Love, tracing the evolution of love from prehistoric to neuroscientific times. She’s the author of other books including Why Him? Why Her? Today she’s a senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute and chief scientific advisor to Match.com.
Fisher’s research has found its way into many articles and books about the science of love and sex, including Love Drugs, a provocative new book by Brian D. Earl and Julian Savulescu, also featured this week in Nautilus. We could hardly create a Nautilus issue about love and sex without her voice. Her comments below represent her key points about the biology of love and sex, and are often counterintuitive and surprising. They are drawn from my interviews with her and presented on their own under short headings.
I Love You, Doctor
We put over 100 people who were madly in love into a brain scanner using fMRI. We noticed those who had fallen in love in the first eight months had a lot of activity in brain regions linked with intense feelings of romantic love. Those who had been madly in love for a longer period of time—from eight to 17 months—showed additional activity in a brain region linked with feelings of deep attachment. That vividly showed us the brain can easily fall happily and madly in love rapidly, but feelings of deep attachment take time. Romantic love is like a sleeping cat: It can be awakened at any time. But attachment, those feelings of cosmic, deep, profound love for another person, takes time.