Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Brain Pain Is Brain Pain

In a sense, as far as the brain is concerned, ‘pain is pain.’ You may have heard yourself or others describe experiences of social rejection as being painful. The question has been whether such descriptions are more metaphorical than physical. Researchers have been studying if there is something really ‘painful’ about social pain and the experience of rejection or exclusion. Accumulating evidence is showing that social pain—the painful emotional experience that tends to follow social rejection, exclusion, or loss—relies on some of the same neural circuitry that is involved in processing physical pain. Not only that, social pain activates portions of the same brain regions and circuits that are activated by physical pain. According to Tor Wagner PhD at the University of Colorado in Boulder and lead author of a study on physical pain versus social pain, “Of all the things I’ve observed in the brain, nothing is more similar to physical pain than social pain.” Discoveries in Italy by neuroscientists Dr. Giorgia Silani and colleagues have found that social pain activates the same brain regions as occurs with physical pain (a broken heart may register and hurt in the brain as much as a broken bone, and social pain can be felt again and again long after a physical pain has healed). Simply witnessing the social pain of another person activated a similar physical pain response of empathy in most study participants. More tomorrow.

No comments: