Looking at a pic of a loved one `cuts pain by 44pc`
London: Scientists at Stanford University have discovered that pictures of loved ones have the power to dull pain.
Their study showed that an image of a romantic partner dulls activity in the pain-processing areas of the brain, to the same degree as paracetamol or narcotics such as cocaine.
As part of the research, the brains of lovestruck students were subjected to MRI scans as they focused on photographs of partners while varying levels of heat pain were applied to their skin.
Neuroscientist Jarred Younger found, on average, pain was reduced by between 36 and 44 per cent, with intense discomfort eased by up to 13 per cent.
In a study published in the U.S. journal Public Library of Science, the post-doctoral scholar said:
"The reduction of pain is associated with higher, cortical parts of the brain," the Daily Mail quoted Younger as saying.
"Love-induced analgesia is much more associated with the reward centres.
"It appears to involve more primitive aspects of the brain, activating deep structures that may block pain at a spinal level - similar to how opioid analgesics work.
"One of the key sites for love-induced analgesia is the nucleus accumbens, a key reward addiction centre for opioids, cocaine and other drugs of abuse.
"The region tells the brain that you really need to keep doing this. This tells us that you don`t have to just rely on drugs for pain relief.
"People are feeling intense rewards without the side effects of drugs," Younger added.
In a separate analysis, psychologists studied 25 women and their boyfriends of more than six months, subjecting them to different levels of pain, using a sharp, prickling sensation.
During the various `stimulations`, the women either held their boyfriend`s hand or the hand of a male stranger, both of whom were hidden behind a curtain.
In other cases, the women were asked to view a photograph of their boyfriend, or a picture of a male stranger while being subjected to discomfort.
Researchers at the University of California, where the study took place, discovered the women showed significantly reduced pain experience while holding their partner`s hand.
But surprisingly, the photograph of their romantic partner provided equally effective pain relief, and both cases were far greater than when a stranger was involved.