Your Brain in Love: Part 1 – When Love is a Many-Splendored ThingEd. note: This week, in the run-up to Valentine’s Day, we’re featuring a 5-part series about the neuroscience of love and romance. At the end, we’ll put the full series on our website. Enjoy!

Lots of relationship experts suggest that couples who have been together through the ages can keep the romance alive with regular date nights. A smashing idea! Neuroscience research shows us that date night can, in fact, help keep a relationship fresh and rewarding, but if and only if you go about it in the right way. The key here is novelty; you and your betrothed must engage in fun, exciting, and new experiences so you can get the dopamine and norepinephrine flowing and reward your brain. Remember, back when you first fell in love, dopamine and norepinephrine were a big factor as well. If you’ve been following the research of Dr. Michael Merzenich, you know that novelty is one of the key factors in driving brain plasticity. Can you change your brain by hitting the indoor rock climbing wall next date night?

Update 2/14/11: New research came out today with another helpful tidbit for date night. Psychologist Richard Slatcher studied couples and found that those who hang out with other couples are “more likely to have happy and satisfying romantic relationships.” It might have something to do with breaking up the routine and introducing novelty from other sources. So maybe you can still go to the same restaurant every week, provided the reservation is for 4, not 2.

Read Part 1: When Love is a Many-Splendored Thing

Read Part 2: Love and Marriage

Read Part 4: Oxytocin, the Love/Hate Hormone

Read Part 5: No Room for Romance? Try Music Instead (But Not Junk Food)