Washington: Suffering of a painful break-up is different from physical pain, according to a new study.
Over the last decade, neuroscientists have largely come to believe that physical pain and social pain were processed by the brain in the same way. But a new study led by the University of Colorado has shown that the two kinds of pain actually use distinct neural circuits.
The researchers used a technique recently borrowed from the computer science field by neuroscientists, multivariate pattern analysis, to examine brain scans that were taken while people looked at a picture of someone who had rejected them. The results were compared to brain scans made of the same people when they were receiving a painful heat stimulus.
The results of the new study are important because they could help understand how social pain can be measured objectively, and how the brain creates these uniquely distressing experiences.
Lead author of the study Choong-Wan Woo said though there were some similar psychological features between physical pain and social pain, they appeared to be quite different in the brain. If social pain was more similar to sadness or depression in the brain than physical pain, that could affect treatment options.
The study also is an important step in allowing researcher to test how the two types of pain interact, which could shed light on known relationships between emotions and physical pain, such as the connection between pain disorders and emotional trauma.
The findings are published in the journal Nature Communications.