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Brain releases painkillers during social rejection
A new study from the University of Michigan Medical School suggests that the brain pathways activated during physical pain also kick in when a person experiences social pain and rejection.
The study, published in Molecular Psychiatry, involved a bran scanning technique that tracked the chemicals released in participants’ brain when they were socially rejected in an online dating model.
Participants included 18 adults, who were asked to view photos and fictitious personal profiles of hundreds of adults. They were then asked to select who they were most interested in romantically.
Participants were then told that their attraction to another individual was not reciprocated, while they were in a brain imaging machine. Scans showed that the brain regions involved in physical pain released opioids when they were socially “rejected.”
The scientists said that the overlap between physical and mental pain implies that there is an opportunity for research in both chronic pain treatments and psychiatric treatments. The findings may be particularly significant for people suffering from depression or anxiety, the researchers said, because they may have an abnormal opioid response to social rejection.