Romance and Pain

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Here’s some news about a natural pain-killer – and it’s not exactly something a doctor can prescribe. Researchers say falling in love can act as a potent painkiller because love stimulates the brain’s reward pathway, much like the rush of an addictive drug. It’s probably because the euphoric phase of a fresh romance has been linked to brain regions rich in the chemical dopamine.

Study participants looked at either a picture of their new love or a picture of an attractive acquaintance, or they were given distracting tasks. Researchers touched them with a hot wand to induce moderate pain and scanned their brains.

They found that looking at their loved one and distraction produced equal pain relief, but the distraction worked through cognitive pathways while the romance triggered a surge in that reward pathway.

That means the brain can generate pain-controlling responses without medications.The next question is whether better understanding of the love-pain relationship might somehow help scientists tackle chronic pain.

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