People need to let go of the illusion that we have a soul, according to Greek Australian neuroscientist George Paxinos.

The professor, who gave a lecture in Athens on the subject of ‘Brain, Behaviour, Development’, held at the Aegean College on Friday 22 May, denied the existence of free will.

“Everything – even feelings – stems from and is controlled by the brain,” Dr Paxinos told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency.

“Modern science has not only rejected the heart as the seat of love, but is making progress in identifying specific structures in the brain involved in the erotic, cognitive, emotional and behavioural components of love,” Dr Paxinos, who is also an atheist, explained.

Scientists began to study the brain activity of people who were deeply in love via functional MRI – while the subjects viewed pictures of their partners, compared to viewing friends of similar age and sex – publishing the first major work on the subject in 2000.

“Researchers have since extended these observations by showing that sexual desire and love recruit some common brain structures that promote bodily sensations, reward expectation and social cognition,” Paxinos tells.

“The notion that love doesn’t reside in the heart but in the brain is now as well-established as the theory of anthropogenic global warming.

“Clearly, it’s time the fallacious cardiocentric theory of love is abandoned and on Valentine’s Day lovers exchange images of the organ really responsible for their emotion, whose shape is every bit as beautiful as that of the heart,” he concludes.

George Paxinos completed his BA at the University of California at Berkeley, then travelled to Canada for his PhD at McGill University, and spent a postdoctoral year at Yale University.

He and Charles Watson are the authors of The Rat Brain in Stereotaxic Coordinates, which, with over 61,000 citations over its seven editions (March 2014), is the third most cited book in science after Molecular Cloning and the Diagnostic and the Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

In 1974 Dr Paxinos permanently moved to Australia, and has been working as a professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney to this day, as well as a leading researcher at Neuroscience Research Australia, having published 45 books on the structure of the brain of humans and experimental animals (brain mapping).

Several of his researches focus on combating neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

His work was recognised by an AO, Ramaciotti Medal, Humboldt Prize, and a $4 million NHMRC Australia Fellowship in 2009.

Dr Paxinos has also been a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia since 2009 and a corresponding member of the Academy of Athens since 2012.