Navigation Links
Romantic Love: Nature's Painkiller?

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

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.

The authors recruited 15 Stanford undergrads who were "wildly, recklessly in love," said Mackey, adding that the recruitment process took "only days."

"It was the easiest study I've ever recruited for," he said. "Within hours they were all banging on my door, 'Study us! Study us!' When you're in that kind of love, you want the world to know about it."

The besotted 7 men and 8 women, who were still in the newly smitten phase of their relationships, came to the study with a picture of their beloved.

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.

Functional MRI imaging of the participants' brain also revealed that, "the brain systems involved in distraction are entirely different from those involved in love," Mackey said. "In distraction, there was a much higher level of the newer corticol systems involved with classic attention and distraction."

On the other hand, "in love, very primitive, reptilian brain systems that are classically involved with the reward systems that motivate our basic drives were involved," he said.

Although the students in this study were at an age when love is often in the air, Mackey believes the results would easily translate to older folks.

"This doesn't require you to be an undergraduate at a university to fall head-over-heels in love," he said. "Even older people can do that."

Nor would someone have to be in the initial throes of a love affair to benefit from love's soothing effect.

"This gave me a greater appreciation that, for a patient in chronic pain, being in a loving relationship may actually provide some analgesic benefit," Mackey said.

Still, love can be an elusive prospect for many. Dr. Joe Contreras, chair of pain and palliative care at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, believes that distraction might be more a more accessible (but often ignored) pain remedy.

Finding ways to distract yourself is "definitely something that is unfortunately underutilized, I believe, because our [medical] system does not incentivize it and insurance companies don't pay for it," he said.

And Anna Ratka, professor and chair of pharmaceutical sciences at Texas A&M Health Science Center's Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy in Kingsville, inserted a note of caution.

"This is still very far from [being useful clinically]," she said. "In my opinion, this is just another demonstration of the fact that pain is an extremely complex phenomenon and it's heavily dependent on perception, and that is actually very different across people."

More information

There's more on how the brain works at the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

SOURCES: Sean Mackey, M.D.,Ph.D., chief, pain management division, Stanford University School of Medicine; Joe Contreras, M.D., chair, pain and palliative care, Hackensack University Medical Center, New Jersey; Anna Ratka, Ph.D., Pharm.D., professor and chair, pharmaceutical sciences, Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, Kingsville; Oct. 13, 2010, online, PLoS ONE

Copyright©2010 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. Romantic partner may play role in reducing vulvovaginal pain
2. Sex between adolescents in romantic relationships is often harmless to their academics
3. Study links romantic rejection with reward and addiction centers in the brain
4. Its the little things: Everyday gratitude as a booster shot for romantic relationships
5. Study points out risks of nonromantic sexual relationships
6. Liquid Love: Last Minute Valentines Day Gift For Your Heart
7. Molecular signatures may aid fight against pediatric liver disease
8. Molecular Signatures in Post-Mortem Brain Tissue of Younger Individuals at High Risk for Alzheimer's Disease
9. Basque researchers apply chemistry to restoration of paintings and dating of signatures
10. Digital Signatures Presented at Electronic Document Management Conference
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Romantic Love: Nature's Painkiller?
(Date:11/30/2015)... Madeira Beach, FL (PRWEB) , ... November 30, ... ... issue of Consumer Reports magazine, quoted Michael Hansen, Ph.D., a senior scientist at ... exposure, and even more so for a child’s exposure limits. , The original ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... ... November 30, 2015 , ... Medicalis, a ... Radiology Society of North America (RSNA) annual meeting, being held November 29 – ... 2014. Throughout 2015, the company has completed installations for Integrated Delivery Network ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... ... ... It’s inevitable that everyone will experience death in his or her lifetime. ... lives among us. It is your perspective, however, that determines how you view death ... T Sky understands that she may see death more frequently than most. As she ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... ... ... The successful filing of an Investigational New Drug application (IND) is a ... key industry segment, Regis Technologies has decided to sponsor and participate in an XTalks-hosted ... , Federal law does not allow new drugs to cross state lines until it ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... ... ... Scott Newman MD, FACS of New York’s Advanced Plastic ... the New York City area to utilize the new, non-invasive SculpSure™ Laser System ... for fat loss in the abdomen, flanks, and other areas that is completely ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:11/30/2015)... 30, 2015  PTS Diagnostics, the U.S.-based manufacturer of ... analyzers, A1CNow ® systems, and PTS Detect™ cotinine ... patents that will propel the company into the mHealth ... Europe . The technology is a system ... on smartphones and tablets, and uses test strip technology ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... NASHUA, N.H. , Nov. 30, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... today that it will feature its latest solutions ... the early identification of cancer at the Radiological ... in Chicago from November ... showcase recent product advances including iReveal®, an automated ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... -- Hanger, Inc. (NYSE: HGR ) (the "Company") today ... its previously announced consent solicitation (as amended and restated, ... amount 7⅛% Senior Notes due 2018 (the "Notes") to ... pursuant to the Consent Solicitation, (ii) the proposed increased ... date of the Consent Solicitation.    ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: