Attention modulates the dorsal striatum response to love stimuli

Authors

  • Sandra J. E. Langeslag,

    Corresponding author
    1. Erasmus Affective Neuroscience Lab, Institute of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands
    2. Department of Psychology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland
    • Department of Psychology, University of Maryland, 0125D Biology/Psychology Building, College Park, MD 20742, USA. E-mail: sjelang@umd.edu

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  • Frederik M. van der Veen,

    1. Erasmus Affective Neuroscience Lab, Institute of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands
    2. Department of Psychiatry, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
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  • Christian H. Röder

    1. Department of Psychiatry, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
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Abstract

In previous functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies concerning romantic love, several brain regions including the caudate and putamen have consistently been found to be more responsive to beloved-related than control stimuli. In those studies, infatuated individuals were typically instructed to passively view the stimuli or to think of the viewed person. In the current study, we examined how the instruction to attend to, or ignore the beloved modulates the response of these brain areas. Infatuated individuals performed an oddball task in which pictures of their beloved and friend served as targets and distractors. The dorsal striatum showed greater activation for the beloved than friend, but only when they were targets. The dorsal striatum actually tended to show less activation for the beloved than the friend when they were distractors. The longer the love and relationship duration, the smaller the response of the dorsal striatum to beloved-distractor stimuli was. We interpret our findings in terms of reinforcement learning. By virtue of using a cognitive task with a full factorial design, we show that the dorsal striatum is not activated by beloved-related information per se, but only by beloved-related information that is attended. Hum Brain Mapp 35:503–512, 2014. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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