Sticks and stones will break your bones and words will really hurt you: heartbreak and rejection linked to pain centres in brain.

Psychological painThe old adage sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Has now been a study of research carried out by the University of California, Los Angeles. Research scientists Naomi Eisenberger started looking at the effects of human psychological pain and the influence, psychological discomfort, has on us, as humans.

Words can really hurt.

 

The Eisenberger research looks at the way rejection lingers with us throughout life. An example of this could be not being asked to a friend’s party or included in a friendship group.

Eisenberger and her colleagues’ research, involves using a video game called “cyber ball”; fundamentally, the participants were asked to play a game with three other players, in which all players in the game pass around a virtual ball, but in fact, the participants are not playing with two other players but rather a computer, that is programmed to exclude the volunteer. Participants are observed as the computer stops passing the ball to them. This might seem trivial to some, but some subjects respond strongly, altering their posture in their seats and making rude hand gestures to the screen.

Whilst playing the game, the volunteers are in a functioning MRI scanner. This records the volunteers brain activity and particularly recording activity in dorsal anterior cingulate cortex ( dACC). The research showed that this area of the brain lights up when the participant feels excluded; this region of the brain is known to be of the pain network.

Eisenberger and her colleagues, study showed that the more distressing we find an injury the more the ( dACC), shows activity.

Eisenberger research is confirmed by other studies, that show a link between social rejection and the( dACC). Further research has also found another part the brain called anterior insula also shows activity; this is associated with physical pain.

Painful relationship break ups can leave their scars

Research carried out by Ethan Kross at the University of Michigan, in which the Kross and his colleagues, recruited 40 people who had just been through a relationship breakup within the past six months. Kross’s study involved asking the participants to view a photograph of their ex-partner, whilst plugged into an fMRI scan (a functioning magnetic image residence machine). Kross Research team would then asked the research subjects to think about their relational breakup. After a brief period of time the volunteers were given a painful jolt of heat into their forearm. This allowed the team to compare the two different brain activities, with two different sensations. As one would expect the ( dACC) and the anterior insula both showed activity.

The linking between physical pain and emotional distress, is confirmed by further studies, suggesting that the two experience feed off each other.

One research found out that when people are excluded there more sensitive to pain. One study looked at response people have of being excluded after being burned with a hot probe and submerging their hand into ice water for a minute. The research concluded that we are more sensitive to pain if we’ve been psychologically wounded.

Implications for the future,

 

The implications of this study, could be that patients with chronic pain, are supported more psychologically, as well as the routine of drugs.

Another implication for this is it might explain why certain people find it hard to withstand the rough-and-tumble of their social life with others.

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