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Decreased lymphocyte dopamine transporter in romantic lovers

  • Donatella Marazziti (a1), Stefano Baroni (a1), Gino Giannaccini (a2), Armando Piccinni (a1), Federico Mucci (a1), Mario Catena-Dell’Osso (a1), Grazia Rutigliano (a1), Gabriele Massimetti (a1) and Liliana Dell’Osso (a1)...



The role of dopamine (DA) in romantic love is suggested by different evidence and is supported by the findings of some brain imaging studies. The DA transporter (DAT) is a key structure in regulating the concentration of the neurotransmitter in the synaptic cleft. Given the presence of DAT in blood cells, the present study aimed to explore it in resting lymphocytes of 30 healthy subjects of both sexes in the early stage of romantic love (no longer than 6 months), as compared with 30 subjects involved in a long-lasting relationship.


All subjects had no physical or psychiatric illness. The DAT was measured by means of the [3H]-WIN 35,428 binding and the [3H]-DA reuptake to resting lymphocytes membranes. Romantic love was assessed by a specific questionnaire developed by us.


The results showed that the subjects in the early phase of romantic love had a global alteration of the lymphocyte DAT involving both a decreased number of proteins (Bmax) and a reduced functionality (Vmax).


Taken together, these findings would indicate the presence of increased levels of DA in romantic love that, if paralleled by similar concentrations in the brain, would explain some peculiar features of this human feeling.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Dr. Donatella Marazziti, Dipartimento di Medicina Clinica e Sperimentale, Section of Psychiatry, University of Pisa, via Roma, 67, I-56100 Pisa, Italy. (Email:


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