Ever been scared to death about being rejected? Going up to that girl you like, but getting shot down in a burning heap of failure?? Getting shot down can feel like a knife to the heart! Well, studies say that is not far off.
According to some studies, Social rejection stimulates increased activity in the same regions of the brain as physical pain. As far as neurons know, a psychological hurt is no different from a physical one. So really, that stabbing feeling may not be much of an exaggeration!
A new research study published online March 2011, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition. A team of researchers from several US institutions recruited 40 individuals who felt intensely rejected after a recent and unwanted romantic break-up.
The volunteers performed two kinds of tasks during functional MRI (fMRI) scanning of their brains. One kind was the Social Rejection task: participants viewed a picture of their former partner and thought about their rejection. The other was the Physical Pain task in which the left forearm was stimulated with an uncomfortable level of heat. Sounds a little crazy & far fetched. BUT WAIT, There’s More!
The brain scans revealed that both extreme stimuli (the romantic breakup and the heat) led to overlapping increases in activity in the brain’s pain regions, including areas called the dorsal anterior cingulate (dACC) and anterior insula (AI) (see figure). The researchers also found overlapping increases in activity in the thalamus and the right parietal opercular/insular cortex….Whaaaaat??
Okay, to break this down, brain scans show significant overlap of the brain regions that process physical and social pain. Crazy.
This begins to give whole new meanings to the term “Love Hurts.” Oh and don’t go using this article to whine about your pain. Get back on the horse, so to speak, and try again. And this does NOT happen to everyone in every instance of social rejection. Some people are USED to the thing. BUT, those areas of the brain are still activated, so it brings up an interesting thought about the issue. This is merely food for thought this Valentines Day from a guy who is working and schooling most Feb14ths. Enjoy tonight.
Source: Ethan Kross, Marc G. Berman, Walter Mischel, Edward E. Smith, and Tor D. Wager. Social rejection shares somatosensory representations with physical pain. PNAS (March 22, 2011).