Heartache and Pain – The Link Revealed!
How does one feel when jabbed with a red-hot poker in the arm? Must hurt like hell. A very bad experience, I must say! Similarly, social rejection hurts a lot. A new study reveals that the human brain can actually make little distinctions between the physical pain that results from injury or disease and the pinch of being rebuffed by our peers – or even by a family member, boss or lover.
These study findings were published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.” Read onto discover more about the interesting fact – heartache and pain are bound together in your brain!
Broken Hearted – About the Study
A team of scientists from the University of Colorado, Columbia University and the University of Michigan involved 40 people into a brain scanner who were sad and bluesy by a recent breakup. They observed as each sad individual looked upon a photo of his/her ex-lover and thought about the hurt he/she felt at having been ditched and spurned. The participants had the equivalent feeling of a hot poker being held to their forearm. This accounts for an eight on a ten-point scale of pain.
Next in line, the team of researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan each individual and revealed that their brains responded both to the physical pain and emotional hurt following an heightened blood flow to a wide range of common areas – a clear indicator of “neural overlap” in accordance with the way one processes and experiences physical and social pain.
The Heartbreaking Revelations!
Those areas which indicated heightened activity as the participants contemplated their emotional pain were actually two areas of the brain which the neuroscientists have associated only with physical pain. Now if you want to know in depth, those regions of neural overlap are known as OP-1, which is the tail end of your parietal lobe’s operculo-insular region. This region is located above and behind your ears. The second region of neural overlap is the dorsal posterior insula, which is located just above your ears.
Edward Smith, professor of psychology at Columbia University, said that the researchers team “were ecstatic with the results of the study.” According to him, the new two regions of the brain which overlapped during the emotional and physical pain conditions, the intensity of activation in these two regions were similar.
Mystery of Pain
This study is a recent discovery as a part of the new body of research. The part of the study is going to be published in the special issue of the Los Angeles Times’ Health section in the April 14, 2011 issue. Several studies have actually established an increasingly strong association between the heart wrenching emotions that come from feeling socially rejected and our experience of physical pain.
But, many such studies indicate that this “neural overlap” only extends to regions where we humans process the emotional tangle of pain – that getting poked with an irritant in the eye naturally makes us emotionally distressed, mad and feel bluesy! The recent study reveals that there is more to the story than meet the eye: that getting excluded, disrespected or dumped feels – literally – like excruciating pain, although a kind of pain whose physical source is not exact and evident.
In Depth Quest!
The study findings extend our knowledge and understanding of overlapping physical and social pain circuits in the brain. This is achieved by putting the same participants through both tests and observing the result. These “heartbreaking” revelations can help us to understand why there are so many studies finding that individuals who have a strong social connection with others live healthier and longer lives when compared with those who are socially isolated or lonely!
So, if you want to have a healthy, long life, here is my simple advice – go out and start socializing! Spend more time with your loved ones, friends and stay happy!