Navigation Links
Researchers find genetic link between physical pain and social rejection

UCLA psychologists have determined for the first time that a gene linked with physical pain sensitivity is associated with social pain sensitivity as well.

Their study indicates that variation in the mu-opioid receptor gene (OPRM1), often associated with physical pain, is related to how much social pain a person feels in response to social rejection. People with a rare form of the gene are more sensitive to rejection and experience more brain evidence of distress in response to rejection than those with the more common form.

The research was published Aug. 14 in the early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and will appear in the print version in the coming weeks.

The findings give weight to the common notion that rejection "hurts" by showing that a gene regulating the body's most potent painkillers mu-opioids is involved in socially painful experiences too, said study co-author Naomi Eisenberger, UCLA assistant professor of psychology and director of UCLA's Social and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory.

In the study, researchers collected saliva samples from 122 participants to assess which form of the OPRM1 gene they had and then measured sensitivity to rejection in two ways. First, participants completed a survey that measured their self-reported sensitivity to rejection. They were asked, for example, how much they agreed or disagreed with statements like "I am very sensitive to any signs that a person might not want to talk to me."

Next, a subset of this group, 31 participants, was studied using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) at UCLA's AhmansonLovelace Brain Mapping Center during a virtual ball-tossing game in which participants were ultimately socially excluded. Subjects were told that they would be connected over the Internet with two other players who were also in fMRI scanners and that they would all be playing the interactive ball-tossing game. In reality, however, participants were playing with a preset computer program, not other people.

Initially, participants were included in the activity but were then excluded when the two other "players" stopped throwing the ball to them.

"What we found is that individuals with the rare form of the OPRM1 gene, who were shown in previous work to be more sensitive to physical pain, also reported higher levels of rejection sensitivity and showed greater activity in social painrelated regions of the brain the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and anterior insula in response to being excluded," Eisenberger said.

The dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and anterior insula are brain regions often associated with the distress of physical pain. Previous research by Eisenberger and her colleagues has shown that these brain regions are also involved in the pain of social rejection.

"Although it has long been suggested that mu-opioids play a role in social pain and there are convincing animal models that show this this is the first human study to link this mu-opioid receptor gene with social sensitivity in response to rejection," Eisenberger said.

"These findings suggest that the feeling of being given the cold shoulder by a romantic interest or not being picked for a schoolyard game of basketball may arise from the same circuits that are quieted by morphine," said Baldwin Way, a UCLA postdoctoral scholar and the lead author on the paper.

Eisenberger argues that this overlap in the neurobiology of physical and social pain makes good sense.

"Because social connection is so important, feeling literally hurt by not having social connections may be an adaptive way to make sure we keep them," she said. "Over the course of evolution, the social attachment system, which ensures social connection, may have actually borrowed some of the mechanisms of the pain system to maintain social connections."


Contact: Stuart Wolpert
University of California - Los Angeles

Related biology news :

1. UTSA biology researchers demystify elusive war zone bacterium
2. UGA researchers propose model for disorders caused by improper transmission of chromosomes
3. Researchers develop new, more-sensitive assay for detecting DNA methylation in colon cancer
4. NIH-funded researchers sequence exomes of 12 people
5. USC researchers identify regulatory genetic sequences that may predict risk for prostate cancer
6. K-State lab gives researchers the tools to study porcine circovirus associated diseases
7. Hebrew U. researchers shed light on the brain mechanism responsible for processing of speech
8. SLAC researchers reveal the dance of water
9. McGill/JGH researchers successfully reverse multiple sclerosis in animals
10. EMBO pioneers pension plan for internationally mobile postdoctoral researchers
11. Mary had a lot of lambs: Researchers identify way to accelerate sheep breeding
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/29/2015)... Oct. 29, 2015 Daon, a global leader ... has released a new version of its IdentityX ... North America have already installed IdentityX ... includes a FIDO UAF certified server component ... to activate FIDO features. These customers include some of ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... 2015 In the present market scenario, security ... various industry verticals such as banking, healthcare, defense, electronic ... demand for secure & simplified access control and growing ... hacking of bank accounts, misuse of users, , and ... PC,s, laptops, and smartphones are expected to provide potential ...
(Date:10/26/2015)... 2015  Delta ID Inc., a company focused on ... PC devices, announced its ActiveIRIS® technology powers the iris ... launched by NTT DOCOMO, INC in Japan ... smartphone to include iris recognition technology, after a very ... in May 2015, world,s first smartphone to have this ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/30/2015)... ... ... Global Stem Cells Group announced that its scientific team is in ... stem cells. The announcement starts a new phase toward launching the simple, quick system ... the lipoaspirate obtained from liposuction of excess adipose tissue. , Lipoaspirate, contains a ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... Dec. 1, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - BioAmber Inc. (NYSE: BIOA ), ... joined the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, alongside more ... standing with the Obama Administration to demonstrate an ongoing commitment ... outcome to the COP21 Paris climate ... Sarnia, Canada . --> BioAmber ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... , Nov. 30, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Zenith Epigenetics Corp. ... Dr. Norman C.W. Wong to its Board of ... comes to Zenith with a wealth of experience as co-founder ... molecular biology. --> --> ... Zenith Epigenetics, board of directors. Zenith,s long standing expertise in ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... Human Longevity, Inc. (HLI), the genomics-based, technology-driven ... Genomics, Inc., a leading genome informatics company offering highly ... The San Diego -based company has ... and Co-founder, Ashley Van Zeeland , Ph.D., who is ... of the deal were not disclosed. ...
Breaking Biology Technology: