The emotion of love is one of the most common themes in music, literature, and motion pictures. And, depending upon which version of the Bible you read, there are over 300 references to love. Whether one is searching for it, celebrating finding it, or grieving over the loss of it, there is power in love.
While one typically associates the expression of love with the human heart, did you know that love is vital to the brain?
Famed neuroscientist and researcher, Marian Diamond, challenged the “nature versus nurture” argument, questioning whether one’s genes or life experiences shapes an individual. In her groundbreaking 1964 paper, Diamond created a new paradigm - the human brain could change as one aged based on the environment and stimuli, and not remain a static or degenerate as we grew older. Commonly using the phrase, “Use it or lose it” during her brain plasticity lectures, Diamond’s research revealed that not only were diet, exercise, challenge, and newness crucial factors in cognitive development but that love, expressed in the form of “touch,” was also paramount. While Diamond and her colleagues studied rats, they found that rodents kept in “impoverished” cages without toys and the social stimulus had shorter lifespans and thinner cerebral cortices than rats that were held, petted, and housed in “enriched” cages with toys and social interaction.
To quote the famous 1985 hit single by Huey Lewis and the News, “The power of love is a curious thing, make a one man weep, make another man sing, change a hawk to a little white dove, more than a feeling that’s the power of love.”
There is power in love. It is vital to our brain development, longevity, and more importantly to our humanity. We must remind ourselves daily to be guided by acts of love. Because, without it, what would this world be like?
And, as God commanded, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
About Katie Hart Smith
Katie Hart Smith’s column, “From the Heart,” touches the heart, inspires, and entertains. Smith, a published author for over twenty years, believes that words, written or spoken, have power. To learn more, visit www.katiehartsmith.com.