Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Romantic Love: Nature’s Painkiller?

In study of lovesick undergrads, it seemed to squelch pain as much as being distracted

From an October 14, 2010 Health Day news item

THURSDAY, Oct. 14 (HealthDay News) — In a study involving a group of lovelorn Stanford undergrads, researchers discovered that high-octane romantic love might be a natural analgesic.

Love’s painkilling effect isn’t just that the person is distracted by thoughts of the loved one — although that works, too. Instead, the researchers found that feeling “head-over-heels” activates the same dopamine-oriented centers of the brain that tune in to illicit drugs such as cocaine.

“These pain-relieving systems are linked to reward systems,” said Dr. Sean Mackey, senior author of a paper appearing online Oct. 13 in PLoS One. “Love engages these deep brain systems that are involved with reward and craving and similar systems involved in addiction.”

“This gives us some insight into potential ways of further probing and ultimately translating that into treatment for pain,” added Mackey, who is chief of the pain management division at Stanford University School of Medicine….

Researchers flashed the picture of the beloved while inflicting pain with a handheld thermal probe. As a control, participants were asked to name every sport that doesn’t involve a ball, a form of distraction, while also activating the probe.

“To our pleasant surprise, both love and distraction reduce pain to an equal amount and that was good because it more fully allowed us to compare them,” Mackey explained.

The pain relief afforded by looking at the picture of the beloved seemed specific to that act — when participants were asked to look at a picture of an equally attractive and familiar acquaintance, their pain levels did not recede…

October 26, 2010 - Posted by | Health News Items | ,

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