Love Really is Like a Drug
Intense spells of passion are as effective at blocking pain as cocaine and other illicit drugs, a team of neuroscientists say. Tests on 15 American students who admitted to being in the passionate early stages of a relationship showed that feelings for their partner reduced intense pain by 12% and moderate pain by 45%.
In the study, researchers at Stanford University showed eight women and seven men photographs of their partners while delivering mild doses of pain to their palms with a hot probe. At the same time, the students had their brains scanned by a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine. At the end of each test, the students were asked to rate how much pain they felt.
Feelings of love, triggered by a photo of their partner, acted as a powerful painkiller. Brain scans revealed that these feelings caused more activity in parts of the brain that are also triggered by morphine and cocaine. Looking at an image of an attractive friend rather than their partner had only a mild analgesic effect.
- Download the study from Plosone.org: Viewing Pictures of a Romantic Partner Reduces Experimental Pain: Involvement of Neural Reward Systems [pdf]