Author Archives: Eva Florence Rapp

Love on the Brain in Paris

One of the first things that come to mind when I think of Paris is love.

Ever since I was young, I looked forward to a time in my life where I would meet someone who I connected with on a deep emotional level and who I could experience the rest of my life with by my side, someone who at the end of my life we can together look back on all the memories we made and happiness we shared with one another.

Mur des Je t’aime: The wall of love

Paris can be otherwise referred to as the city of love and ever since my arrival, I can see why. Not only do people show more physical affection when in public, but also the surrounding scenery bodes for romance. With the Pont des Arts Bridge filled with lovelocks to the romantic language spoken throughout to the Mur des Je t’aime otherwise referred to as the wall of love with 311 different languages to say I love you, love and romance permeates throughout this city.

Pont des Arts Bridge with lovelocks

After walking through the park on my way back from brunch, I could not help but notice the amount of couples so deeply focused on one-another and so clearly in love. This public affection of love seems to be a lot more common here than I am used to and led me to want to research more about the effect love has on the brain.

Being in love appears to directly affect structures and circuitry in the brain. I have previously heard of the effect of love being equated with that of a drug due to its influence on specific body hormones and the reward system in the brain.   I decided to find a study that looked at a different impact love has on the brain. The study I found looked at the gray matter in the striatum of the brain, so the cell bodies in a portion of the front of the brain, as well as, perceived subjective happiness (Kawamichi et al, 2016). The researchers divided the individuals into two groups based on whether they were in a romantic relationship or not. They used an imaging technique, as well as, a subjective happiness scale and found that those in a romantic relationship had reduced cell bodies in an area in the front of the brain and increased subjective happiness. In essence, those in love feel happier and have perceived happier or more positive experiences.

Visual/Graph from Paper. The visual shows the location where they see difference in gray matter in the dorsal location of the Striatum. The graph shows the significant difference between the gray matter for those in a relationship (less gray matter) vs. no relationship.

To me this was very interesting to read about. Being in love affects our brain structures, so that we feel happier and perceive experiences as more positive. Walking around Paris and seeing the couples so enthralled and focused on one another, it makes sense that love affects the chemistry of the brain on a deeper level. I can see why Paris is the city of love. From the glistening Eiffel Tower at night to the beautiful architecture on all the buildings unlike I’ve ever seen before to the Chateaux’s we visited, the environment is magical, making it a perfect place to be known for love.

A Chateaux we visited


Kawamichi, H., Sugawara, S. K., Hamano, Y. H., Makita, K., Matsunaga, M., Tanabe, H. C., . . . Sadato, N. (2016). Being in a Romantic Relationship Is Associated with Reduced Gray Matter Density in Striatum and Increased Subjective Happiness. Frontiers in Psychology, 7. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01763

All images not my own from Creative Commons





The Paris Brain without High-fructose corn syrup

Most people close to me know that nutrition plays a large role in my life, and I am very passionate about it. In the future, I would love to be able to have a job in which I can use my academic knowledge of neuroscience with my passion for nutrition to help improve others’ lives.

In America I feel like I constantly have to examine ingredient labels searching for chemicals that are unnecessary and harmful to my health. Often times food marketing is extremely misleading and without close examination, it is easy to fall trap to the commercialized mass production of lab created and modified food.

Arriving to Paris, I knew food is a large part of French culture, so I was interested to experience how the French viewed food and nutrition by living amongst their culture for the 5 weeks of this program.

Thus far, about 2 weeks into the program, I already see many clear distinctions between the two cultures. As I am sitting in a Parisian café writing this blog post, I cannot help but question whether it was just my imagination or if the food tasted fresher and cleaner.   At home, most people would view my diet as very restricted since I shy away from most breads, dairy items, any processed foods, and added sugars. I do this because I feel the way these items have been made is not beneficial to my overall health.   Since being in Paris, however, I feel fine eating some bread and cheese with my meals, common additions and cultural components of a French meal, as they taste fresher, cleaner and less processed than what one would find in a typical restaurant in America.

One of my many meals at this café in Paris

These observations along with my passion for nutrition and neuroscience, led me to want to delve further into specific components of food banned in France, as well as the rest of Europe, but commonly found in American food.

This led me to…High-Fructose Corn Syrup.

High-fructose corn syrup

The research article I found was conducted at Emory, which I did not realize until after I read it and thought it would be good to include!

Many previous studies have concluded that high-fructose corn syrup contributes to obesity through metabolic dysregulation, which is an umbrella term to describe the many processes in the body that are disrupted and ways obesity can impact our health. Previous studies have also examined the ways in which it can affect stress, which then can contribute to anxiety and depression. This study, conducted by Harrel et al (2015), aimed at looking at the implications high-fructose corn syrup had on our mental health, specifically in adolescents with developing brains. The researchers were looking at whether this sweetener had long-term implications on our response to stress, and to test this, they took rats and gave some of them a diet for 10 weeks with high fructose corn syrup and others a standard diet. All the rats were put under situations that induced stress for 12 days. The researchers then tested all the mice with situations to see behaviors associated with anxiety or depression. Essentially the researchers

Hypothalamus is the area in the brain in blue

found that with a high fructose diet, not only could they increase stress hormones like previous studies showed, but they could also induce anxiety and depressive behaviors, as well as induce changes in gene expression in the brain, specifically the area called the hypothalamus.

It is important to note that when replicated in adult rats, researchers found that the sweetener did not have an effect. Thus, fructose is affecting the adolescent developing brain on an intricate level and can lead to future poor mental health outcomes.

A strength that I liked of this article is that it tested adult rats, so that we could specifically see the danger is fructose consumption on a developing individuals brain. I would have liked to see a diet that contained high fructose corn syrup, along with other well-known super foods to see whether an exceptionally healthy diet could negate the harmful effects of high-fructose corn syrup. Not a limitation, but rather a question this article brought up for me, is replicating the exact study, but substituting high-fructose corn syrup for one of the many other supposedly harmful substances found in foods banned in Europe but not America like Stevia, food dyes, GMO’s and certain pesticides.

Feelings associated with Depression and poor mental health

Being a student in college, I am surrounded by many individuals close to me who confide about their personal experiences with anxiety and depression. The amount is astounding, and it should not be the norm. As someone interested in both nutrition and the brain, this leads me to question whether diet plays a role in this. Depression and anxiety are widespread problems. Having something commonly present in the food we consume that has been shown by this study to induce depression and anxiety cannot be beneficial to our mental health. Do Parisians have an advantage with not having to worry that a harmful chemical exists in their food?

For now and the rest of my time in Paris, I will enjoy eating without worry, especially all the baguettes made from fresh, local ingredients, cheese not modified in a lab, and dessert without high-fructose corn syrup. However, once back in the United States, I hope that the regulations soon catch up with the science, so that I do not have to worry that something harmful to my mental health is present in the food I put into my body.



Harrell, C. S., Burgado, J., Kelly, S. D., Johnson, Z. P., & Neigh, G. N. (2015). High-fructose diet during periadolescent development increases depressive-like behavior and remodels the hypothalamic transcriptome in male rats. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 62, 252–264.

Inside Neuroscience: Studies Explore How Diet Affects Brain Structure, Function. (2015) Society for Neuroscience.

Images not my own from Creative Commons