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One of its roles appears to be in perception of the gut, raising the possibility that it is responsible for butterflies in the stomach.
It has also been linked to the perception of pain."This could be something to do with butterflies", said Mr Bartels, who has just completed a Phd.
"But of course, sexual attraction is part of it," he added.
It peaked in my 20s, when I met the black Dylan Mc Kay — a sinewy, brooding, inscrutable bad boy.
Our first encounter was all extended eye contact across the crowd, and a freak-out over whether he'd ask for my number.
During the scans, the students were shown pictures of loved ones or a friend of the same sex and age as the object of their affections.
Seeing a lover prompted activity in four distinct brain regions that were not active when looking at pictures of the friend, New Scientist reported last week. One was a spot in the medial insula, the mysterious central lobe of the brain whose function is still a puzzle.
After sifting through the responses, three quarters of which came from women, they chose 11 women and six men in their mid twenties.