The findings appear in this week's online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Several of the same areas of the brain became active when the participants felt either physical pain or emotional pain. In fact, the two types of pain seem to share more regions of the brain than previously thought, Smith noted.
What about other kinds of emotional pain? Do they have the same effect on the brain? Maybe not. Smith said rejection appears to be in a class by itself in terms of its similarity to physical pain.
Future research could examine how emotional pain due to rejection affects how people feel physical pain, said Robert C. Coghill, an associate professor in the department of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. Would rejected people feel more pain than other people? And what about after they get reminded about their rejections by looking at pictures?
For now, one thing is clear: brain scan or no brain scan, rejection hurts.
Learn more about pain from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Edward E. Smith, Ph.D., director, cognitive neuroscience, Columbia University, New York City; Robert C. Coghill, Ph.D., associate professor, department of neurobiology and anatomy, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, N.C.; March 28-April 1, 2011, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, online
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