Why rejection hurts: an alarm system for physical and social pain

“Is feeling socially estrange truly comparable to feeling physical pain or is this merely poetic license? ”

Abstract (Via Neuro-PSA)

Numerous languages characterize ‘social pain’, the feelings resulting from social estrangement, with words typically reserved for describing physical pain (‘broken heart’, ‘broken bones’) and perhaps for good reason. It has been suggested that, in mammalian species, the social-attachment system borrowed the computations of the pain system to prevent the potentially harmful consequences of social separation. Mounting evidence from the animal lesion and human neuroimaging literatures suggests that physical and social pain overlap in their underlying neural circuitry and computational processes. We review evidence suggesting that the anterior cingulate cortex plays a key role in the physical– social pain overlap. We also suggest that the physical– social pain circuitry might share components of a broader neural alarm system.

Introduction (Via Neuro Psa)

When people speak of ‘hurt feelings’ or ‘broken hearts’, it is clear that these descriptions are meant to reflect painful experiences.Writers have long noted that some of the most painful experiences known to humankind are those that involve the loss of important social bonds. Indeed, the use of physical pain words to describe episodes of social estrangement is common across many different languages [1]. However, is feeling socially estranged truly comparable to feeling physical pain or is this merely poetic license? This review presents evidence suggesting that the similarity between physical and social pain does not end with this linguistic overlap but extends into how the human brain processes both kinds of pain. We propose that, based on similarities in purpose, process, and function, physical and social pain share parts of the same underlying system for their operation.

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About Miguel Barbosa

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26. December 2009 by Miguel Barbosa
Categories: Curated Readings, Psychology & Sociology | Leave a comment

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