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Physical Pain and Emotional Pain Use Same Brain Networks

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the morphine-cures-broken-hearts dept.

Medicine 154

Antipater writes "To the brain, heartbreak and emotional torment are no different from having hot coffee spilled on your hand, reports CNN. They cite a recent study from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in which 40 recently-dumped men and women underwent fMRI scans while having their arm burned or being shown a picture of their ex. The stimuli produced nearly identical brain reactions."

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In other news... (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36369942)

...scientists found to be dreaming up bizarre study purely to satisfy their own schadenfreude.

Re:In other news... (3, Insightful)

petteyg359 (1847514) | more than 3 years ago | (#36369944)

A lot of inspiration can be found in seemingly bizarre experiments.

Re:In other news... (3, Funny)

SomeJoel (1061138) | more than 3 years ago | (#36369966)

A lot of inspiration can be found in seemingly bizarre experiments.

For instance, with the properly constructed experiment, we could finally figure out "How many marketing people does it take to change a lightbulb?"

Re:In other news... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36370044)

A lot of inspiration can be found in seemingly bizarre experiments.

For instance, with the properly constructed experiment, we could finally figure out "How many marketing people does it take to change a lightbulb?"

While standing barefoot in a puddle of salt water....

And another experiment where we have bleeding Wall Street lawyers in a pool of sharks to see if there really is professional courtesy between the two.

And I for one truly believe, as God is my witness, that Congressmen can fly by flapping their arms if they are released from a high enough altitude,

Re:In other news... (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370062)

It's a joke. If the mental image of a bunch of dudes in white coats with clipboards sticking a guy in a big humming machine, and proceeding to burn his arm with a hot iron doesn't amuse (or terrify) you, then you are officially a zombie.

Re:In other news... (1)

SomeJoel (1061138) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370170)

It's a joke. If the mental image of a bunch of dudes in white coats with clipboards sticking a guy in a big humming machine, and proceeding to burn his arm with a hot iron doesn't amuse (or terrify) you, then you are officially a zombie.

You should see how they inflicted the emotional pain!

Re:In other news... (1)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370414)

You should see how they inflicted the emotional pain!

"Yes, miss, we understand. Yes, he has been a loving, honest, and decent boyfriend. He has treated you with respect, and he has been there for you in some difficult times, like when your dog died. He brought you chocolates and flowers on Valentine's day and he even cooked you dinner. He tolerates your mother and your father thinks he's a stand-up guy. But you see, you still have to dump him. You have to dump him for science."

Re:In other news... (2)

grouchomarxist (127479) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370598)

"Of course, after this experiment is finished. I have another experiment for you. In my pants."

It sounds fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36370558)

I would like to know where I can sign up to perform such experiments on people and get away with it.

Re:It sounds fun (1)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370684)

Here you go [cia.gov]

Re:In other news... (5, Interesting)

morethanapapercert (749527) | more than 3 years ago | (#36371216)

I don't find this story bizarre, quite the opposite in fact. I think this research might be able to shed light on some; as-yet poorly understood, sources of pain, such as Fibromyalgia. Right now, the only real treatment for Fibromyalgia is an anti-depressant called Cymbalta. In the words of my doctor "for a large minority of cases, this drug helps, but we don't know how or why" (for the record, I am among those for whom it is not very effective unfortunately)

In my opinion, any ethically run study on the mechanisms of pain and how they might be linked or related to the mechanisms of depression are a Good Thing

Re:In other news... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36371370)

In addition to the medical utility, such work likely has a fair amount of basic research value. The brain is monstrously complex and we don't understand it all that well. The demonstration that one phenomenon is actually a slightly modified version, re-using much of the same tissue, as a quite different seeming one likely has interesting implications. We know in broad strokes that the brain is a giant pile of hacks and ad-hoc extensions of prior function; but that isn't nearly the same thing as knowing the exact shape of the tangled mess.

Re:In other news... (1)

Knuckles (8964) | more than 3 years ago | (#36371968)

Not a drug, and there are no guarantees, but did you try Tai Chi Chuan? Last yeara small study found [google.com] that it helps with some of the symptoms. My mother-in-law, who suffers from fibromyalgia, reports that since she has taken up Tai Chi the symptoms improved and, maybe even more importantly, she feels much better emotionally. As a Tai Chi Chuan practitioner of 14 years myself, I would say that regardless of any effects on fibromyalgia it is worth taking up TCC anyway for the many general benefits it brings. But from to my experience with the art and from the little I know about fibromyalgia I can very well imagine how it helps, as TCC is very much about regaining control over one's body (and mind), which includes stuff like learning how to relax muscles that are habitually tense.

It can be taunting to find a good TCC teacher/school, and bad ones abound. You want someone who treats TCC as the martial art it is, not some kind of dance or gymnastics. If you email me I may be able to give you advice in this area, depending on where you live. Good luck in any case.

Yeah - maybe if you look at it in a silo (2)

abbynormal brain (1637419) | more than 3 years ago | (#36369956)

but the same brain you are talking about has a "would you rather" processor - and mine would rather suffer an emotional heartbreak than a boot to the head

Re:Yeah - maybe if you look at it in a silo (5, Insightful)

ustolemyname (1301665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370032)

Yet I, having suffered both, would rather the boot to the head.

Different people value equivalent things differently. News at 11.

Re:Yeah - maybe if you look at it in a silo (3, Insightful)

barlevg (2111272) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370054)

agreed. pain from a boot to the head fades faster.

Re:Yeah - maybe if you look at it in a silo (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36370088)

boot to the head, agreed. but kick in the balls, that's a whole different story...

Re:Yeah - maybe if you look at it in a silo (2)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370668)

Still fades faster. A solid kick and, what, you feel sick, nauseous, just want to curl up and die?

For how long? Five minutes?

Yeah, a bad breakup can have at least those symptoms, but for weeks, at least.

Also... (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 3 years ago | (#36372246)

Balls (or head) usually don't start to hurt again when you remember you were kicked some time ago.

Re:Yeah - maybe if you look at it in a silo (2)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370226)

Yet I, having suffered both, would rather the boot to the head.

Amen to that. Thankfully I have only experienced a real broken heart once, and I suspect that many people are lucky enough to never have the full experience. The closest thing I can think of was having my father die, a tooth crack, and a broken pelvis all at the same time. But I'd rather take all that again over a heartache, cause that put me out of commission for months, and decades later, I'm still having flashbacks.

Re:Yeah - maybe if you look at it in a silo (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36370356)

You are having flashbacks decades later over some "broken heart"? Sorry, but you sound like a pussy who really needs to grow a sack. Women are simply holes for men to relieve themselves into, much like public toilets. Never forget this.

Re:Yeah - maybe if you look at it in a silo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36370516)

this is an effective remedy. I really don't care that it offends some women, it is far better then slowly killing yourself. what this guy ^^^ said.

Re:Yeah - maybe if you look at it in a silo (3, Funny)

Killer Orca (1373645) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370530)

You are having flashbacks decades later over some "broken heart"? Sorry, but you sound like a pussy who really needs to grow a sack. Women are simply holes for men to relieve themselves into, much like public toilets. Never forget this.

Take heed gentlemen, this anonymous internet commenter has all the traits women desire but chooses to bestow his wisdom onto us.

Re:Yeah - maybe if you look at it in a silo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36372040)

The closest thing I can think of was having my father die, a tooth crack, and a broken pelvis all at the same time. But I'd rather take all that again over a heartache

Wow. I could understand the other guy - he would rather be kicked in the head than, say, have his partner who he loves leave him. Got that. But you'd rather have your father die than that? I guess if he's already dead that makes it rather hypothetical but still, it seems a little cold. I'm sure I'd pick heartbreak over someone dying.

Re:Yeah - maybe if you look at it in a silo (1)

petman (619526) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370400)

A boot to the head can kill you or leave you brain damaged. Not, always, but there's the possibility.

Re:Yeah - maybe if you look at it in a silo (1)

Knuckles (8964) | more than 3 years ago | (#36371974)

So can a bad breakup

People with goatees are losers (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36370496)

Something I noticed..

Re:Yeah - maybe if you look at it in a silo (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36370082)

but the same brain you are talking about has a "would you rather" processor - and mine would rather suffer an emotional heartbreak than a boot to the head

I have suffered tremendous psychological pain because of mental illness and I think I'd prefer physical pain... hell, one way of making your brain let go of mental anguish is to hurt yourself, cut, burn, whatever. Then you can focus on the throbbing pain of the cigarette burn, overriding the mental pain, and it is heaven compared to severe anxiety/panic.

Re:Yeah - maybe if you look at it in a silo (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36370142)

GO CRY EMO KID.

Re:Yeah - maybe if you look at it in a silo (4, Insightful)

definate (876684) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370498)

This remind's me of something a teacher from primary school used to say...

"Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will always hurt me."
- Penny Sinclaire

I remember this profoundly affecting me at the time, because people had always stated the converse (that "names will never hurt me"), blew my mind at the time.

It must have affected me so much, that to this day, I still remember it some 20+ years later.

Re:Yeah - maybe if you look at it in a silo (1)

guyminuslife (1349809) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370266)

Parent is fucking nuts and deserves a boot to the head.

Re:Yeah - maybe if you look at it in a silo (2)

doug (926) | more than 3 years ago | (#36371012)

Everybody deserves a boot to the head. Sometimes we know why, sometimes not.

Re:Yeah - maybe if you look at it in a silo (1)

LongearedBat (1665481) | more than 3 years ago | (#36371640)

Then you've never suffered a real heart ache. A real heartache is torture so painful that its effects can last for years, whereas a boot to the head merely hurts, and even surgery is just very painful for a few days. Nothing compared to a real heart break.

pellet mill (-1)

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Bad scans (1, Insightful)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 3 years ago | (#36369970)

Goes to show how crude our current scanning techniques are.

I've burned my hand before and the sensation was quite different from being dumped.

Not to say it's magic or not in the brain. Just saying fMRI isn't accurate enough to detect the difference. There most certainly is a difference.

Re:Bad scans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36370004)

Wow you're right. Your anecdotal evidence based on reconstructed memories surely disproves the data the scientists collected. You should win a nobel prize!

Re:Bad scans (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370048)

Your anecdotal evidence based on reconstructed memories surely disproves the data the scientists collected.

So your anecdotal evidence is that you've had a breakup that was the exact same experience as a dermal burn?

Can anyone remember a breakup that was comparable subjectively to physically being burned?

Re:Bad scans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36370244)

*raises hand*

Re:Bad scans (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370324)

Yes. Both made me almost overdose on opiates.

Next question.

Re:Bad scans (1)

Grygus (1143095) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370824)

I see your reasoning but I think it's flawed. Your brain goes through the same process for the color red and the color blue, but you get obviously different results. There is no reason to assume that simply because two stimuli are experienced differently that they must be entirely separate processes.

Re:Bad scans (3, Insightful)

cupantae (1304123) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370096)

I don't know why parent is being modded up and the AC down. It's not like the researchers are saying to one another, "seeing as being dumped feels exactly like spilling hot coffee one the hand, we should check if this is backed by brain scans". You say that you know that the difference is, in fact, detectable between the two by adequate brain scanning equipment. You back this up by saying that the experiences feel different. That is as ridiculous as saying that you've rubbed charcoal and diamonds on paper, and you know they're different elements.

Re:Bad scans (1)

williamhb (758070) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370314)

I don't know why parent is being modded up and the AC down. It's not like the researchers are saying to one another, "seeing as being dumped feels exactly like spilling hot coffee one the hand, we should check if this is backed by brain scans". You say that you know that the difference is, in fact, detectable between the two by adequate brain scanning equipment. You back this up by saying that the experiences feel different. That is as ridiculous as saying that you've rubbed charcoal and diamonds on paper, and you know they're different elements.

No, this raises an interesting question about another possible experiment, testing out philosophies of mind. Under materialism (as opposed to dualism) the experience is believed to be entirely contained within the brain (rather than an additional 'mind'). So, if the vast majority of subjects report the sensations as 'feeling' qualitatively different (that data hasn't been collected), then under materialism [good enough] scanning ought to be able to identify the difference. This suggests a possible experiment, though it wouldn't be conclusive as there are still significant get-out clauses in both directions: if it 'disproves' materialism then someone could claim the scanning equipment simply wasn't good enough or that the difference is not just in what areas are active but the nature of that activity; if it 'supports' materialism, someone could claim that the physical difference isn't the only difference.

Re:Bad scans (1)

nusuth (520833) | more than 3 years ago | (#36371674)

Most materialists would accept mental states are distinct from brain states and that mental states are a different level of abstraction from brain activity. Think of a typical desktop computer. If you observe someone else use the computer and simultaneously observe the electrical activity of CPU (and rest of the hardware) at transistor level, you would have a hard time mapping the program function to CPU activity. It would be absurd to hold a dualist position over that hardship, to claim that since you can't tell which program is running and what it is doing from low level analysis of CPU activity, the execution is actually carried out by (or augmented by) something non-CPU (or non-physical.) The program really runs on the physical system, and there is one-to-one correspondence between physical states of the CPU, the software running (i.e. firefox) and state of software (i.e. waiting for /. to load) but understanding what a program does/is doing requires different levels of abstraction. This is actually functionalism but I don't know any hard-line materialists that says mental states are explained away by physical states. Functionalists would be comfortable with many-to-one correspondence of physical states to mental states, materialists may claim one-to-one correspondence, that is as far as the difference goes.

Re:Bad scans (1)

williamhb (758070) | more than 3 years ago | (#36372134)

If you observe someone else use the computer and simultaneously observe the electrical activity of CPU (and rest of the hardware) at transistor level, you would have a hard time mapping the program function to CPU activity.

Actually, that's not true -- it turns out that by analyzing the electromagnetic radiation from a CPU you can get quite a lot of information, to the point that electromagnetic snooping of what's going on inside the chip is a published security attack method! But anyway, most of what you were saying is an objection I already suggested -- that a materialist could object it is the nature of the activity that causes the distinction (and so two different activities would scan largely the same).

Re:Bad scans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36370450)

More like rubbing charcoal and diamonds on paper and finding different results, despite identical scans, then concluding that they are not identical in every way. He then hypotheses that current measurements are insufficient and that closer inspection might show how they are different.

It's not perfect, but it's not as ridiculous as you suggest.

Re:Bad scans (2)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370486)

That is as ridiculous as saying that you've rubbed charcoal and diamonds on paper, and you know they're different elements.

No this is a case of a very vague study with low precision. I'm not saying that the same regions of the brain don't light up... I'm saying even though they light up it doesn't mean the experiences are terribly similar.

This study was the first to show that rejection can elicit a response in two brain areas associated with physical pain: the secondary somatosensory cortex and the dorsal posterior insula.

With insufficient precision you can say "Both pain and rejection cause neural activity!" But that doesn't tell you much.

A more apt analogy to this study would be the researchers taking glass and diamond and concluding they are carbon since they're both hard.

I could tell you that both anger and arousal elicit an adreneline rush. That doesn't mean they are the same.

For the sake of researching long term pain studies then yes I imagine the fact that both use inter-related circuitry is insightful and useful. But statements like "To the brain, heartbreak and emotional torment are no different from having hot coffee spilled on your hand" are terribly misleading.

Re:Bad scans (1)

quickgold192 (1014925) | more than 3 years ago | (#36371152)

Granted, the "To the brain..." quote was pulled from CNN's analysis, not the scientists'. And like you said, knowing that the "same brain networks that are activated when you're burned by hot coffee also light up when you think about a lover who has spurned you" is one degree of accuracy more than we had before this study.

Re:Bad scans (2)

ATMAvatar (648864) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370106)

That may simply be due to a difference in intensity and duration. That says nothing about which part of the brain is going to handle each stimulus.

The idea that emotional pain can manifest itself physically is hardly new, and this experiment reinforces that idea.

Re:Bad scans (1)

barlevg (2111272) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370110)

I doubt the researchers are saying that physical and emotional pain are the exact same but rather that one's brain processes them in similar ways. So it suggests that it may be more than just poetic or overdramatic when one says, "It feels like my heart's been cut out" after a messy breakup.

Re:Bad scans (2)

statusbar (314703) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370520)

This is not really news; there was a different set of researchers last year who found that people taking painkillers like ibuprofin had less emotional hurt when a girlfriend dumped them.... So if you are expecting a messy breakup, take a bunch of ibuprofin as if you had a migrane.

--jeffk++

Re:Bad scans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36370174)

Reads:"Nearly Identical" in the summary. So, they are different.

Re:Bad scans (3, Informative)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370180)

Goes to show how crude our current scanning techniques are.

That'n no true. What is however true is the /.-ers seldom read TFA.

I've burned my hand before and the sensation was quite different from being dumped.

Now, form the second FA:

a network of brain regions that support the aversive quality of physical pain (the “affective” component), principally the dorsal anterior cingulate (dACC) and anterior insula (AI), also underlie the feeling of social rejection. In contrast, the brain regions that support the somatic representation of physical pain, and are most closely aligned with the “sensory-discriminative” component—including the operculo-insular region [i.e., secondary somatosensory cortex (S2) and dorsal posterior insula (dpINS)]—are not activated by social rejection and do not factor into current theorizing about the neural overlap between social rejection and physical pain (1, 2).

Translation: yes, the main areas activated in "affective pain" and "physical pain" are different.

As plausible as this rationale is, here we suggest an alternative: that the neural overlap between social rejection and physical pain is more extensive than current findings suggest. Specifically, we propose that experiences of social rejection, when elicited powerfully enough, recruit brain regions involved in both the affective and sensory components of physical pain.

Which, applied to your case, seems to indicate that your feeling of social rejection was not powerful enough. That... hints a bit about you or the strength of your relation, isn't it?

Re:Bad scans (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36370352)

Please tell me you aren't actually that stupid. I'm pretty sure that they didn't say anywhere it felt the same, just that it used the same brain networks. Durrr of course it doesn't feel the same, I'm sure they've also burned their hands and been dumped. You're not unique in your experience.

Re:Bad scans (1)

SoupIsGoodFood_42 (521389) | more than 3 years ago | (#36371648)

Just because it feels subjectively different that doesn't mean it isn't processed by the same part of the brain. I've seen very different things through my eyes.

Broken heart syndrome (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36370026)

Okay, this isn't really related, but it does show that emotional pain can lead to severe physiological effects:
Broken Heart Syndrome (wiki link) [wikipedia.org]

Emotional stress can trigger a cardiomyopathy which can kill (possibly from stress-released levels of adrenaline). In fact (quoting from wikipedia), mortality rates in general show that in the year following a loved one's death, women are twice as likely to die than normal, and men 6 times more likely.
(Though this may have a lot to do with the widower effect. [obit-mag.com]

Not News (1)

mentil (1748130) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370028)

I read about this a year or so ago, probably on Slashdot even.

Re:Not News (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36370300)

Of course it's news! It was posted on Slashdot.

Missing control group (3, Interesting)

bragr (1612015) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370066)

What about the brain activity when your ex burns your arm?

Re:Missing control group (1)

petteyg359 (1847514) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370114)

I'd say it was a bad deal, and you got burned.

Re:Missing control group (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36370264)

Like in: "Oh, joy... The master/mistress is back"?

your ex burns your arm? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36371768)

Good question. You go first.

CNN science articles are for morons (1)

codeAlDente (1643257) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370098)

Emotional and physical pain feel different to you, don't they? That means they feel different to your brain. I'm certainly not denigrating this study - it's interesting - but the link to the CNN summary is not fit for nerds. The article's title makes such an irrational claim that it should not be considered for further reading. The journal article's authors realize that a good fMRI scan gets hundreds of thousands of neurons per voxel at best. Even if the data were identical (they weren't) it only means is that physical and emotional pain don't look different in the average of a large functional group of brain cells. fMRI will get you the coarse activity of a brain regions, but not a neural correlate of conscious experience.

Re:CNN science articles are for morons (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370404)

a burned hand and a kick in the nuts both feel different too

Re:CNN science articles are for morons (1)

codeAlDente (1643257) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370652)

Not at CNN.

so.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36370122)

Does this mean we can claim self defense for murdering someone who jilted us since our brain physically can't tell the difference between the emotional hurt and real hurt?

Re:so.. (2)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370310)

"Your honor, it was only in self-defense that I tracked my runaway bride to Michigan and murdered her there."

Yes, you can claim that.

Crime of depression? (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 3 years ago | (#36372314)

I mean... hey... this gets to be "proven medical fact", we might as well may start giving out guns and shovels to emotionally sensitive people.
Also, it becomes A-OK to ram someone off the road if they annoy you.
And just think of all wonderful implications to self-harming yet externally induced emotions like jealousy?

Either Kevlar-yellow will become the new black, or we'll start putting antidepressants into drinking water.

In other news... (1)

slashqwerty (1099091) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370150)

All MRIs look the same...

Morphine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36370198)

So why oh why is there no morphine for my heart?

Physical/Emotional is a bit more complicated (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36370202)

Sometimes Physical pain triggers an emotional response (say, if you were abused as a child, and as an adult, someone hits you, reminding you of the abuse you suffered before). Sometimes Emotional pain triggers a physical response (broken heart syndrome). It's not as clear cut as saying "This is physical, this is emotional, and there are strict limits on how they occur."

selection bias (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370206)

Since only a masochist would agree to participate in such an experiment, the results may not be applicable to the general population.

Losing a Limb (1)

alphatel (1450715) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370210)

What showed up on the MRI when the subjects lost their internet connection?

This is the essence of the human mind. (1)

mtadd (22856) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370222)

If this article tickles your fancy about just what's going on inside the human mind, may I suggest the wonderfully engaging set of lectures on human behavior given by Ropert Sapolsky as part of the Stanford University online lectures available at iTunes U.

Heartbreak and torment (4, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370224)

heartbreak and emotional torment are no different from having hot coffee spilled on your hand

If you've seen the price of coffee at Starbucks recently, spilling some would definitely be grounds for feeling emotional trauma.

Now I Feel Bad... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36370272)

I went in for some unexplained pain (later linked to an allergy) and the doctor asked me if I had any stress emotional or otherwise. He said the two can often be linked to physical sensations. I of course handle the latter fairly well most of the time and I responded with the following tune, "Ooo eeee, oooo aaaah aaaah, I went to see the witch doctor and he told me what to do...."

He wasn't exactly amused, but some levity never hurt any situation.

pretty harsh study... (1)

itchythebear (2198688) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370278)

It's like the scientist where like "oh, sorry to hear about your breakup. You know what would make you feel better? Let me burn the shit out of your arm and study your brain. Had enough burning? Here is a picture of your ex to look at. What's that? Oh no, it only seems that she's wearing nothing but my lab coat in that picture.. your prob hallucinating form that lsd we gave you earlier."

Re:pretty harsh study... (2)

Elbereth (58257) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370794)

Ha. I've had nightmares like what you described, but they weren't quite that bad.

This study also makes me curious what effect emotional and neurological disorders might have on the results. Being bipolar, I've experienced quite lot of emotional turmoil in my life (some of it my own fault, admittedly), and what you describe is sometimes how my life feels. Later on, I can see my perceptions and reactions were irrational, but it always feels normal, at the time. I can be philosophical and resilient about an emotionally traumatic event, yet fall to pieces because a friend didn't call me back at the set time. It's weird.

Masochism (2)

TemperedAlchemist (2045966) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370320)

How does this explain how masochists feel pleasure from physical pain, but do feel hurt from emotional pain.

Re:Masochism (1)

the_raptor (652941) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370732)

The key is "nearly identical brain reactions". I have suffered tremendous emotional pain in my life and it is similar but different to physical pain. Also masochists are abnormal so there is no guarantee they process pain the same way as non-masochists.

Re:Masochism (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36371026)

I call them "Sensationalists" since they enjoy all the sensations life has to offer... Pain releases endorphins, repeated or prolonged pain can cause desensitization or numbness -- Mixed with a bit of pleasure, it's not hard to see how someone may enjoy sex + runner's high == more powerful stimuli.

Emotional pain is part of the sadist/masochist power exchange as well. Being disrespected, dehumanized, used, and abused (emotionally) is also enjoyed by many of the same masochists. This study would actually support this correlation.

laser pointer (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36370390)

i buy a in laser pointer [warnlaser.com] ,good,

Different kind of pain (3, Interesting)

lavagolemking (1352431) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370412)

Think of pain in a psychological, adaptive sense, where it's an undesirable stimulus that lessens the chance we will perform some kind of behavior again. I think that's what is being picked up by an MRI. Not the immediate reflex that causes you to pull your hand away from the glowing red thing on the stove, but the part that causes it to hurt afterward, leaving a strong memory of the situation.

However, I did have a psychology professor last quarter tell the class you can lessen the effect of a break-up by taking pain medication. He said that most anti-inflammatory medications are believed to affect a certain part of the brain, which is incidentally the same place triggered by a break-up. He told us this right after Valentine's day, apologizing for not getting to that point in the curriculum a day sooner.

I know this seems anathema to /. (4, Interesting)

painehope (580569) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370512)

But I've actually been through a lot or relationships. Everything from one-night stands to one-week stands to three-month torrid affairs to engagement to even one marriage. And I've had a lot of injuries (two shootings, about a dozen stab wounds, gone face-first through 2 windshields, caught on fire twice, etc. ; I've been in a lot of fights [including the knife fights, whether I had a knife or not...and, yes, I came out on top in all of those or I'd be dead], not all of which I won [but the majority of them I did, but when I lost, I lost pretty badly...most real fights are over in less than 10 seconds, regardless of what Hollywood would have you believe], combat, you name it).

And while a one-night or one-week stand going bad isn't a big deal, finding out that the women that you've fallen in love with over the past 3 months to 3 years is either (a) leaving or (b) done something so off-the-reservation that you can't stand to have her around anymore, love or no love, is more painful than any injury I've ever sustained. Hell, I carried a torch for 12 years for one woman (and even got back together with her when we met up again after about 11 or those years), and it almost drove me insane when I broke up with her for the second time. Something that no amount of physical pain has ever driven me to, that experience almost did. It took me about 10 months to get to the point where I realized that everything bad I saw coming out in her (self-centered, inconsiderate, unwillingness to concede that she might be wrong no matter what evidence was stacked against her, unreasonable demands, etc.) that caused me to break up with her 12 years ago had changed from simple flaws to dominant personality traits in the intervening time. Until I realized that, I dreamed about her, wrote about her (one of my hobbies is writing), and she was never far from my thoughts (except for the rare times that I was with someone else who ensnared my heart the way she had, and none of those lasted longer than a few years).

I would most definitely say that (and other similar events) that is far more painful to me than getting shot, stabbed, or caught on fire. Physical pain is nothing compared to the hell that one's emotions and attachments can put one through. Think about it - when torturing someone, it's often far more effective to work on their emotions and mind than it is to cause them physical injury. Ask any vet whether waiting for something bad to happen (pre-battle jitters, being in a precarious position, walking into a potential ambush) is worse than anything that happens to you when the shoe drops. Everyone I know (and I can't think of a single man in my family that I know of that hasn't served in the military at one time or another, and in every single war of the past 100 years in many cases) that's been in those situations will tell you that your mind can do worse things to you than anything else.

Re:I know this seems anathema to /. (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 3 years ago | (#36371506)

Thanks for sharing. Seriously.

Negative emotions can wreak all sorts of havoc on the body. Acupuncture can be a good adjunct to therapy, especially for long held emotions. You might consider it, if you haven't already found other ways to move on.

Re:I know this seems anathema to /. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36372184)

Lt. Dan, is that you?

and I can't think of a single man in my family that I know of that hasn't served in the military at one time or another, and in every single war of the past 100 years in many cases

They all fought and died, amirite?

Correction (2)

davidbrit2 (775091) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370572)

That should read "Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists Who Are Assholes".

Reminds me of one of the opening scenes from Ghostbusters. "The effect? I'll tell you what the effect is: it's pissing me off!"

Study Poetry (2)

nightcats (1114677) | more than 3 years ago | (#36370814)

Read the poetry of Shakespeare, Rumi, Chaucer, Keats, Coleridge, Goethe, Wordsworth, Rilke, Tennyson, Eliot (I could go on), and the same theme arises: poets have known this for ages and have patiently waited in their graves for science to catch on. It is a very ordinary sort of knowledge, based on near-universal experience. I just think the poets do a far better job of expressing it.

Weird. (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 3 years ago | (#36371114)

There's a definite trend in this thread of people saying they'd prefer physical pain to emotional pain. And yet our society looks at corporal punishment like something from an alien planet. "Cruel and unusual," and all that. Caning a thief? Unimaginable. But putting him in a cage for a number of years, subjecting him to degradation and humiliation? That's CIVILIZATION, baby.

Seems like we ought to admit that the reason we don't use physical punishment on criminals is not because of some moral imperative but because imprisonment actually hurts more.

Re:Weird. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36372360)

Seems like we ought to admit that the reason we don't use physical punishment on criminals is not because of some moral imperative but because imprisonment actually hurts more.

Either that, or that inflicting physical punishment bothers us (the 'inflicter', if you will) as well, and not just the criminal ('inflictee').

Humans are predominantly empathetic, and physical pain might be easier to identify than emotional pain. So we prefer to ignore the mental pain (which is easy to do, especially when we don't have to interact with the criminals), than to ignore the fact that someone is being caned or tortured (even if I don't have any interaction with the victim).

Hell, even in movies or tv-shows. Seeing a guy lead away in cuffs doesn't cause any response in me, but watching a guy get tortured (even though I know it is acting) causes me to flinch a bit (or change channels, if the screams/blood gets too graphic).

Even in my life, the worst physical pain I felt (stomach cramps that had me screaming) pales in comparison to the emotion trauma I suffered when a loved one passed away. But when I had physical pain, my co-workers were doing all they could to make me feel better and doing little things for me for weeks after. But my co-workers found it easy to ignore my emotional loss once I stopped having any outward reaction, even though I felt hollow inside for months.

Re:Weird. (1)

xkuehn (2202854) | more than 3 years ago | (#36372380)

I can't mod you up, so I'll just say that yours is the most true comment on the story.

It is also a fact that negative reinforcement is ineffective if not applied quickly. Locking someone up over a period of years is less than useless, but a "caning" might actually achieve something.

And if someone is truly so dangerous that we can not let him out again, is execution not less cruel?

I find our society disturbing.

Emotional Pain Vs Physical Pain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36371168)

Emotional Pain lasts forever while physical pain is mostly temporary.

Re:Emotional Pain Vs Physical Pain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36371386)

Emotional Pain lasts forever while physical pain is mostly temporary.

I'm going to call BS on that one. My brother died back in '77 (when I was 12) and I remember feeling pretty distraught about it back then (especially when viewing the body). However, I barely even think about him nowadays and, when I do, no tears well up, I remember few shared experiences, and so forth. Hell, I can't even remember what he looked like (other than sideburns, the fashion of the day). Ditto for my dad, who died in '89. Time may not heal *all* wounds but it does a pretty damn good job on some of them.

Of course, it may be that I'm just a heartless bastard. That's certainly a possibility :-)

Bad science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36371236)

That article wasn't too bad, with control groups and such. Right up to the point where it blurted out "Participants rated how they felt after each task trial using a five-point scale, with lower numbers reflecting more distress".

WTF? Involving the subjectivity of the target in the measurement process is an instant indicator of poor science. Hell, I'd lie just to bugger up the results of a crappy experiment like that.

If they'd stuck to just measuring specific objective things, it may have had some merit. FFS, don't any medical people know about the scientific method?

As a man thinketh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36371372)

so he is. Read the Bible and you would "discover" things a lot earlier.

John Sarno figured this out (2)

dave562 (969951) | more than 3 years ago | (#36371514)

The man has written a couple of books about the role that the mind plays in back pain. When the book first came out it was pretty revolutionary. Now the ideas are pretty widely accepted as being fairly obvious. The man has not said that ALL back pain is related to the mind. However he has laid out a very plausible hypothesis to explain how the mind uses chronic pain to distract itself from deeply repressed emotions.

This has been known for awhile (1)

arglebargle_xiv (2212710) | more than 3 years ago | (#36371728)

Psychiatrists know, for example, that certain painkillers can be effective in treating some symptoms of emotional distress, and in lessening the pain of rejection, isolation, or loss.

For the person who posted the WTF? response, this is an important result because it means that mechanisms for dealing with physical pain can also address some aspects of emotional pain (although as I've pointed out, it wasn't really a new result, but confirmation of something we already knew).

Re: This has been known for awhile (1)

arglebargle_xiv (2212710) | more than 3 years ago | (#36372048)

Following up to my own post, pain, both physical and emotional, affects the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, and can be treated with something as ordinary as Paracetamol (clincally, acetaminophen), which I believe is sold in the US under the brand name Tylenol. If the CNN story isn't technical enough for you, try "Acetaminophen Reduces Social Pain: Behavioural and Neural Evidence", Psychological Science, 2010 (this was earlier work, not what CNN is reporting at the moment).

(That's *Dr* arglebargle_xiv to you).

>Slow Down Cowboy!
>
>It's been 40 minutes since you last successfully posted a comment

What is this, rate-limiting for stoned people?

Re: This has been known for awhile (1)

catmistake (814204) | more than 3 years ago | (#36372356)

Actually, many in emotional pain do seek the relief that a bottle of Tylenol can bring... and liver death quite stops emotional pain in its tracks.

Old News (1)

ldobehardcore (1738858) | more than 3 years ago | (#36372108)

Hasn't this already been done at least 2 years ago?

I'm pretty sure I read somewhere (possibly PopSci SciAm, or maybe Nat'l Geographic) that emotional pain looks exactly the same as physical pain in an MRI in 2009 or so.

Sorry for not linking. I'll look it up and see if I can find corroborating evidence or a counter to my gangrenous mind.

In the words of Sid Vicious.. (1)

msevior (145103) | more than 3 years ago | (#36372208)

... violence doesn't hurt.

Compared to emotional pain, I totally agree.

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