Dear fellas, if you've just had your heart broken due to a recent breakup, take heart: science is here to teach you how to go through this less painfully. (Does that sound as comforting as I thought it would?)
“Breaking up with a partner is one of the most emotionally negative experiences a person can have, and it can be an important trigger for developing psychological problems,” said first author and postdoctoral research associate Leonie Koban.
So, together with her team, they utilized 40 volunteers who had experienced an “unwanted romantic breakup” in the past six months to measure and study neurological and behavioral impacts of the placebo effect on these individuals.
In a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine, volunteers were shown images of their former partner or their "ex" and were asked to recall the heart-breaking separation. After that, they were shown images of their friends and were then put through physical pain. These stimuli were then alternately repeated.
With this, results from the fMRI showed that though not identical, similar regions in the brain lit up when the volunteers experienced physical and emotional pain. This finding alone shows a very important lesson: “Know that your pain is real – neurochemically real,” senior author Tor Wager, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at CU Boulder, said. But the study doesn't end there.
After this, the volunteers were given a nasal spray on which half were told that it is a “powerful analgesic effective in reducing emotional pain” and to the other half as just a simple saline solution. Repeating the previous experiment, the former group (the placebo group) should not only a decreased pain both physically and emotionally, but had their brain respond differently as they see their ex's photo!
"Activity in the brain’s dorsolateral prefrontal cortex – an area involved with modulating emotions – increased sharply. Across the brain, areas associated with rejection quieted. Notably, after the placebo, when participants felt the best they also showed increased activity in an area of the midbrain called the periaqueductal gray (PAG). The PAG plays a key role in modulating levels of painkilling brain chemicals, or opioids, and feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine," as CU Boulder Today writer, Lisa Marshall
, puts it.
So go have fun and do something for yourself or at least believe that you're actually helping yourself out and let your brain regions do the magic!