Learning new words gives the same pleasure as having sex or eating chocolate, a new study has revealed.
According to a joint Spanish/German team of researchers from Barcelona's Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute and Otto von Guericke University, expanding the vocabulary activates the ventral striatum, a part of the brain involved in activities such as gambling, sex and the eating of chocolate.
The study was conducted on 36 adults, who took part in language-based trials and simulations of gambling.
Results showed that both activities stimulated the same parts of the brain, suggesting that there is a possible emotional connection linked to learning new words, which can explain the continuous development of human language.
"Recent theoretical models have proposed that during human evolution, emerging language-learning mechanisms might have been glued to older subcortical reward systems, reinforcing human motivation to learn a new language," the study, published in Current Biology, said.
Lead author Antoni Rodríguez Fornells told Catalan regional daily La Vanguardia: "The aim of the study was to find out to what extent learning a language could activate these pleasure and reward circuits.
"From the point of view of evolution, it is an interesting theory that this type of mechanism could have helped human language to develop."
Researchers said that the study could contribute to explain human beings' desire to learn new words and develop communication techniques and it confirms that when people grow up, they are still motivated to learn new words.
The results can be also used to develop new treatment for people with language-learning difficulties, researchers concluded.