November 9, 2010
By Pamela Katz Ressler, RN, BSN, HN-BC, MS-PREP graduate student and PREP-AIRED blog moderator
Thank you to Tufts University School of Medicine, MS-PREP alumna Nancy Mitchell for forwarding this intriguing study from Stanford University School of Medicine on love induced pain relief. In their study, Dr. Sean Mackey and colleagues suggest that intense, passionate feelings of love can alter the perception of pain.
“When people are in this passionate, all-consuming phase of love, there are significant alterations in their mood that are impacting their experience of pain,” said Sean Mackey, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Pain Management, associate professor of anesthesia and senior author of the study. “We’re beginning to tease apart some of these reward systems in the brain and how they influence pain. These are very deep, old systems in our brain that involve dopamine — a primary neurotransmitter that influences mood, reward and motivation.”
While love is not the only answer to relieving pain, it appears that similar areas of the brain are activated by intense love and also by pain relieving pharmaceuticals. Further study of the neural reward pathways that are triggered by intense feelings of passion could lead to a more complete undertanding of the neural mechanisms involved in the pain experience.