Lady Gaga’s long-awaited single, “Perfect Illusion,” was released on Thursday night to her Little Monsters’ delight. In typical Gaga fashion, it’s an ‘80s-style ballad with references to sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. Less predictable, but not unwelcome, is the song’s surprising faithfulness to scientific fact: The song describes the “perfect illusion” and hazy aftermath of a broken relationship, comparing it, accurately, to the comedown from a soaring high:
I don’t need eyes to see / I felt you touchin’ me / High like amphetamine / Maybe you’re just a dream / That’s what it means to crush / Now that I’m wakin’ up / I still feel the blow / But at least now I know
Comparing the slip-and-slide aftermath of a drug-induced high to heartbreak is, scientifically, spot on. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology discussed this phenomenon: Lead researcher Helen Fisher — known for her work on the biological anthropology and chemistry of that fickle thing called love — argues in the paper that romantic rejection leads to emotions that avalanche into clinical depression and, in extreme cases, suicide. As evidence, she presented fMRI brain scans of people still in love with their exes who looked at photos of them compared to photos of normal people.
Duh, anyone who’s experienced unrequited love or a breakup might say. But here’s the twist: Those fMRI images showed a lot of activity in the prefrontal cortex area, where feelings of motivation and reward are expressed. Activity in that area almost mirrored that of cocaine addicts going through withdrawal, wanting to get high but unable to fulfill that need. That obsession and craving for something you know can’t do any good for you — whether it be an ex or a hit of coke — might explain why Lady Gaga “still feels the blow.”
But fear not, love-forsaken humans and Lady Gaga: The study offers hope. As time passed, the researchers found that activity in the right ventral putamen — the part of the brain that creates those nagging feelings of attachment — decreased when the same lovesick humans were shown photos of their exes a few months later. That’s more than enough reason not to fear — as Lady Gaga once crooned — the end of bad romance.