This is Your Brain in Love: Scenes from the Stanford Love Competition

Can one person experience love more deeply than another? That’s what The Stanford Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Imaging and filmmaker Brent Hoff set out to understand when they hosted the 1st Annual Love Competition. Seven contestants, ranging from 10 to 75 years of age, took part. And they each spent five minutes in an fMRI machine, thinking deeply about love and allowing the imaging technology to measure activity in their dopamine, serotonin and ocytocin/vasopressin pathways. If you think this sounds unromantic, you’ll want to reserve judgment. Though science may be the explicit focus here, the film has a touching human dimension to it.

The Love Competition was made as part of Wholphin, the short film quarterly published by McSweeney’s. You can subscribe to Wholphin to find more films.

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  • Hang says:

    This is the sweetest experiment I have ever known. It is very sentimental indeed.

  • Mary Hanna says:

    Lovely indeed. It made me feel good just to watch it!

  • Pud Tain says:

    Number of impulses or level of activity can be measured but not depth of feeling. Silly test. Someone has too much money which could be utilized for a more worthy purpose.

  • Pud Tain says:

    Silly. An MRI measures impulses and brain activity not depth of feeling.

  • Tania Luna says:

    What really moved me is how these people felt after thinking about love for an extended period of time. We should all do that more often.

  • Jen says:

    I love this idea! Do you know the song playing in the background?

  • E says:

    Thank you. It brought tears to my eyes. So lovely.

  • J says:

    does anyone know what the song is called in the video?

  • stackhouse says:

    The song is “The Leap Year” by The Pauses from the album “A Cautionary Tale.” It’s available off of Amazon.

    Pud Tain, how would you come up with an experiment that can measure “depth of feeling”? Are you saying that it can’t be measured at all or an MRI can’t measure it?

  • albielin says:

    You can’t measure “depth of feeling” using fMRI or any technology today. Even claiming an fMRI measures “brain activity” makes some assumptions – it measures blood oxygenation – the assumption is blood oxygenation = greater activity because brain cells in use require more oxygen.

    It’s also somewhat of a philosophical question – how can anyone objectively know how anyone else feels about anything? E.g., when we communicate degree of pain to a doctor, it’s totally subjective – just a scale of 1-10.

  • JKop says:

    There is nothing intrinsically private or publicly unknowable about experiences. If you can identify your experience, and thus learn to know it, then what prevents you from publishing your knowledge? With language we can refer to practically anything.

  • David says:

    Watching this brought warmth at the end. It really tells you something too. First place winner was the eldest among the contestant, 75, and second place was the youngest, 10. Tells you something about love and innocence.

  • Mridula says:

    Enjoyed watching it.

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