In the weeks after getting dumped, how often would you say you think about your ex? That’s the question researchers asked 15 recently rejected men and women in a (small) study published published in the Journal of Neurophysiology in 2010. All of the brokenhearted study subjects told the researchers they spent more than 85 percent of their waking hours thinking about their former significant other.
But this is just a small side note in a study that was actually designed to find out what’s happening in the brain after a breakup, using brain imaging technology. When the study subjects looked at a photo of their former significant other, the researchers saw activity in the participants’ nucleus accumbens, an area of the brain associated with addiction, including cravings for cocaine. In a way, this provides a handy excuse for the behavior the study volunteers admitted to in the weeks since their breakup, including “inappropriate phoning, writing or e-mailing, pleading for reconciliation, sobbing for hours, drinking too much, and/or making dramatic entrances and exits into the rejecter’s home, place of work or social space to express anger, despair or passionate love.” Hey, no judgments. We’ve all been there.