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+  Africa Speaks Reasoning Forum
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| | |-+  The Pain of Rejection is Real
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Author Topic: The Pain of Rejection is Real  (Read 14230 times)
Posts: 1531

« on: October 10, 2003, 05:44:01 PM »

Ian Sample, science correspondent
October 10, 2003 The Guardian

How scientists proved that the pain of rejection is all too real

The pain of rejection is more than mere metaphor. A team of scientists have found that to the brain, a social snub is just like stubbing a toe.

Brain scans carried out on volunteers showed that when they suffered a social snub, the brain's "pain centre" went into overdrive. The finding suggests that any emotional stress, such as the demise of a relationship or the loss of a loved one, might be far more closely linked to real pain than previously thought.

Scientists have known for some time that when a person is physically hurt, a part of the brain called the anterior cingulate flickers into action.

"It's like an alarm system. It lets you know when you're feeling pain," said Matthew Lieberman, a psychologist at the University of California in Los Angeles.

Dr Lieberman and his colleagues Naomi Eisenberger and Kipling Williams decided to see if the same part of the brain was triggered by emotional stress.

They got volunteers to lie down in a brain scanner while they played a simple computer game. The game involved hitting buttons on a handset to catch a virtual ball and then throw it to one of two other players on a screen.

Volunteers were told that the game was unimportant and that it was only being used to check that connections to the other players lying in scanners elsewhere worked. But the researchers were not telling the truth. The other two players were not real at all, but were being controlled by a computer program.

When the game started, all three players passed the ball around so that each got a fair share of the action. But after playing for a while, the computer-controlled players suddenly started throwing the ball only between themselves.

"We had people coming out of the scanners saying 'Did you see what they did to me!'," said Dr Lieberman.

The volunteers who felt most put out by the snub showed the biggest changes in brain activity. Their brain's "pain centre" had become far more active.

"The response to this social exclusion was remarkably similar to what you see in response to physical pain," said Dr Lieberman.

According to Dr Lieberman, his results should change how we think about emotional pain. "We tend to think physical harm is in a different category to emotional harm, but this shows we should be aware that emotional pain can cause the same kind of distress to someone as physical pain."

Professor Anthony Dickenson, of University College London, who specialises in the origins of pain, said: "This whole area is incredibly important because it's proving to the medical profession once and for all that emotional distress is a genuine thing, that people who are distressed and upset are not malingerers.

"It shows that the psychological aspects of pain are genuine and real and dealing with it is not a case of telling people to pull themselves together."

Dr Richard Wise, of Oxford University, who has used magnetic resonance imaging to study the effect of pain on the brain, said: "Studies like this have a broader value in that they can help us build up an idea of the networks in the brain that are involved in experiencing different feelings."

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Posts: 610


« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2003, 07:39:26 PM »

There are ways that emotional pain is worse than physical pain. Ones tend to accept physical pain for what it is, and either move quickly to try to relieve it or at least come to terms with it. The problem with emotional pain is that we often don't want to accept it, and get vexed over the fact that we are feeling it at all, let alone the very real physical symptoms accompanying it. We feel that emotional pain is somehow not 'real', and a sign of weakness on our part. This creates a negative feedback loop which makes emotional pain all the harder to deal with.

The Czech psychoanalyst Stanislaus Grof did groundbreaking work in studying how physical and emotional trauma is stored in the nervous system.  In his work with patients he observed what he called 'systems of condensed experience' ('COEX systems').  He says

"emotionally important events from the life of an individual are recorded in the memory banks in such a way that they form specific experiential clusters...memories from various periods of life that involve similar elements or have an emotional charge of the same quality are stored in close association with each other. According to the nature of the emotional charge we can distinguish negative COEX systems reflecting specific traumatic events and unpleasant experiences, and positive COEX systems involving pleasant aspects of the individual's history."

So it seems that there exist memory clusters of similar experiences, which may explain why a seemingly minor event, a small 'snub', can be experienced as a major rejection, since it activates the negative COEX system which stores similar events. This is helpful knowledge to have as one works to 'clean house' and put their emotions in the proper order, only to be swamped at times by feelings that seem inappropriate and out of proportion with the relatively small events that 'kick off' feelings of grief and rejection.

Knowledge is power. When we realize that  we may periodically fall into what seem to us inappropriate wells of emotion, we can see these as residues of  negative COEX  systems, ghosts and phantoms only, and become keen observors of our emotional states, rather than helpless victims of them.

I know that it is possible to completely 'clear' negative constellations of emotional memories so that at some point one will never revisit those wells of sadness again.

Sorrows come and go. Someday they won't.

Posts: 1531

« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2003, 09:50:45 AM »

Source: University Of California - Los Angeles

A new UCLA study shows that different parts of the brain are stimulated in reaction to pain depending on gender. The research, which represents the largest gender-comparison study of its kind, focused on people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), one of the nation's most common chronic medical conditions. The findings may help develop and target better treatments for IBS and other illnesses.

"We are finding more scientific differences between men and women as we improve research methods and broaden study populations," said study co-author Dr. Emeran Mayer, UCLA professor of bio-behavioral sciences, and medicine, physiology and psychiatry. "This growing base of research will help us develop more effective treatments based on a new criteria: gender."

Dr. Mayer is the director of the new Center for Neurovisceral Sciences & Women's Health (CNS) at UCLA, which conducted the study.

Published in the June 2003 issue of the journal Gastroenterology, the study examined 26 women and 24 men with IBS. UCLA researchers took positron emission tomography (PET) brain scans of patients during mild pain stimuli.

Although researchers found some overlapping areas of brain activation in men and women, several areas of male and female brains reacted differently when given the same pain stimulus. The female brain showed greater activity in limbic regions, which are emotion-based centers. In men, the cognitive regions, or analytical centers, showed greater activity.

"The reason for the two different brain responses may date back to primitive days, when the roles of men and women were more distinct," said study co-author Dr. Bruce Naliboff, UCLA clinical professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, and co-director of CNS.

According to Naliboff, these gender differences in brain responses to pain may have evolved as part of a more general difference in stress responses between men and women. Men's cognitive areas may be more highly triggered because of the early male role in defending the homestead, where in response to stress and pain, the brain launched a calculated fight-or-flight reaction.

The female limbic regions may be more responsive under threat because of their importance in triggering a nurturing and protecting response for the young, leading to a more emotion-based response in facing pain and stress.

Naliboff noted that both responses have advantages and neither is better. In fact, under conditions of external threat, the different responses may lead to complementary behaviors between men and women.

In addition, researchers found that the anticipation of pain generated the same brain responses from study volunteers as the actual pain stimulus. "The brain is a powerful force in dictating how the body responds to pain and stress," said study co-author Dr. Lin Chang, UCLA associate professor of medicine and co-director of CNS.

The next step, according to Mayer, is to look at how the results of the study may impact treatment for IBS and other disorders. Mayer adds that one current drug for IBS, Lotronex, affects the limbic system and has worked more successfully in women than men.

UCLA's Center for Neurovisceral Sciences and Women's Health studies how the brain, stress and emotions impact the development of disorders that affect mainly women.

Irritable bowel syndrome affects 15 to 20 percent of Americans and causes discomfort in the abdomen, along with diarrhea and/or constipation.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the National Institute of Nursing Research, both part of the National Institutes of Health, funded the study.

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