By Sarah Myers, Staff Writer
“How many songs have been written [about] love? Love is probably the most popular topic in life. How can you not be interested in love?” asks Jacqueline Crues, senior, psychology.
And really, how can you not?
“We read all these magazines with tips to make people fall in love with you, but until now there really hasn’t been a lot of scientific support for these claims,” states Kruti Surti, senior, psychology.
Led by Dr. Sandra Langeslag, professor of psychology, the “Love Lab,” or the University of Missouri St. Louis’ Neurocognition of Emotion and Motivation lab (Nem lab), investigates the neurobiology of love and how love affects brain tasks, attention, memory, motivation, emotional regulation, and heartbreak.
Undergraduate research assistants Katrina Lynn, junior, psychology, Traviona Terry, senior, biochemistry, Crues, and Surti manage projects pertaining to love and how it affects working memory and tasks. The thought is that love will affect and even impair an individual’s ability to concentrate on a working task, affecting their accuracy.
In the study managed by Terry, the group is trying to figure out how looking at pictures of their beloved affect the participant’s ability to accurately recall shapes.
In another study managed by Surti, the participant is shown pictures of political figures and actors and is measured on their distraction level when presented simultaneously with pictures of their beloved.
“So we’re expecting in both of our studies you’re going to be slower and less accurate than if you’re doing the task by yourself versus if you’re just looking at your friend,” says Dr. Langeslag.
Essentially, they hypothesize, “Being in love is distracting,” says Remy Mallett, senior, psychology, who is investigating emotional arousal.
In another project managed by Crues, the correlations of being psychologically in love and the physiological sensations of what is popularly known as “butterflies” is studied using a machine that measures electrical activity on the stomach.
Michelle Sanchez, graduate, psychology, investigates emotional regulation strategies and how that affects the heartbroken. She uses questionnaires and then measures the electrical activity of the brain to determine how the brain responds to emotional regulation strategies thought to help with feelings of heartbreak.
“The idea is that the emotional regulation strategies will help with love,” says Sanchez.
“We’re looking for two types of participants. People who have recently fallen in love less than a year ago,” explains Dr. Langeslag. Specifically, they are looking for individuals in the stage of being nervous and still having butterflies.
The other type is heartbroken participants. Being heartbroken can mean having negative feelings about the breakup, where people feel upset, depressed, sad, and lonely. It can be because of a relationship, separation, or divorce.
Participants are required to send in between one and 48 pictures depending on the study. Studies take place in Stadler Hall and take between 45 minutes and two hours. There is up to $40 compensation depending on the study. Participants must be 18 to 40 years old.
Sanchez makes a point that “[Participants] don’t actually have to talk about their feelings at all. So even if you’re not ready to talk about your recent heartbreak, you don’t have to.”
Langeslag reflected on the time she first looked into love. “I was very much in love myself when I was studying psychology and I kept wanting to write papers about it but there were hardly any scientific papers in love.”
Now, there is more research on love and the lab is contributing to the literature. Dr. Langeslag’s work has been featured on BuzzFeed, Psychology Today, and more.
Ultimately, the lab will contribute to developing more theories and “remedies” for love that will help the heartbroken. Will you fail that exam or forget to do your chores because of your newfound relationship? Those questions can only be answered if the lab has participants.
If you have questions or would like to sign up and learn more, email the lab at firstname.lastname@example.org or look at the Facebook page Nem Lab at UMSL.