Love between the mother and the infant, writes Allan Schore (2019), in early critical periods, shapes the trajectory of development of the right brain in all the later stages of life. Mutual love can be understood as a shared process of interactive regulation of positive affective states that emerge from right-brain to right-brain resonance in which emotional arousal is amplified. The right side of the brain is the hemisphere of love and it is this love that is essential to the development of social and emotional brain systems in the early years. The right hemisphere is dominant in mothering too, unsurprisingly. The attachment functions of the right orbitofrontal area develop within the social world, in the attachment relationship. This type of emotional regulation is a basic social skill that extends social involvement in the world, including love. The central principle of interpersonal neurobiology is that the structure and function of the brain are shaped by experiences, in particular those that involved synchronised emotional relationships. In these interactions brains align their neural activities. During critical periods genetic programmes in specific areas of the brain significantly increase synthesis and methylation of DNA. The rate at which this occurs is epigenetically influenced by the social environment in which it is happening.

Mutual love, which is the experience of union with another being, from early life all across the lifespan increases emotion-processing limbic areas for both participants, whether it is adult-child, parent-infant or close friendships. Right brain-to-right brain interpersonal neurobiological mechanisms continue to stimulate limbic-autonomic emotional circuits in later right brain growth spurts in childhood, adolescence and adulthood, allowing the emotional brain to develop greater complexity. Bidirectional communications of embodied love in the early attachment relationship is the source of what Schore refers to as parasympathetic-dominant ‘quiet love’ that is present in tender intimacy and spirituality. Maternal and romantic love share the function of maintenance and perpetuation of the species. Maternal love is stored as ‘subcortical memory’ that is the basis of the impulse to care over the life span. Across the lifespan interpersonal attachment bonds are associated with positive emotions.


Schore, A. N. (2019). The development of the unconscious mind (Norton series on interpersonal neurobiology). W. W. Norton & Company.