The BBC recently reported how love can ease pain. Researchers caused fifteen students to experience small amounts of pain and observed the effect on their brain using an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scanner. The test was then repeated while patients looked at photos of their loved ones. The results showed that looking at the photos reduced the students’ perceptions of pain.
Dr Jarred Younger, one of the researchers, said that looking at a photograph of a loved one involved more primitive brain functions and had a similar effect to taking opioid painkillers. [pullquote]Looking at a photograph of a loved one involved more primitive brain functions and had a similar effect to taking opioid painkillers.[/pullquote]
Professor Paul Gilbert, a neuropsychologist from the University of Derby, said ‘It’s important to recognise that people who feel alone and depressed may have very low pain thresholds, whereas the reverse can be true for people who feel secure and cared for. This may well be an issue for the health service, as patients are sometimes rushed through the system, and perhaps there isn’t this focus on caring that might have existed once’.