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Romantic love quickly dies

Brain chemicals - not amoré - linked to passion

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Romantic love normally lasts only a year, according to Italian boffins, whose findings would have Casanova spinning in his grave.

Scientists at the University of Pavia reckon that a brain chemical linked to feelings of euphoria - rather than amoré - in responsible for setting new lovers' hearts a flutter. Scientists looked at levels of proteins known as neurotrophins in the blood of men and women aged 18 to 31.

The sample included people in both long and short relationships as well as singletons. The researchers found that those starting a relationship experienced increased levels of nerve growth factor (NGF) proteins, which causes sweaty palms and the butterflies, the BBC reports. Boffins found levels of these psychotropic proteins - which they linked to feelings of euphoria and dependence between partners - receded over time as relationships become more established.

Loved up

Levels of the NGF protein in the 39 people (out of 58) still in the same new relationship after a year had reduced to base-line levels. Report co-author Piergluigi Politi said the study suggests that "acute love" fades over time. Looking for deeper feelings beyond the first flush of love was outside the scope of the research.

Politi said the study suggested a link between NGF and feelings of romantic love. "Our current knowledge of the neurobiology of romantic love remains scanty. But it seems from this study biochemical mechanisms could be involved in the mood changes that occur from the early stage of love to when the relationship becomes more established," he said.

Finding of the research have been published in the Psychoneuroendocrinology journal. The Pavia team are careful to stress the need the further research. However the general thrust of their findings has received support from scientists in other disciplines.

"Research has suggested that romantic love fades after a few years and becomes companionate love and it seems certain biological factors play a role," Dr Lance Workman, head of psychology at Bath Spa University, told the BBC. ®

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