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Long-term love may dull pain, study shows

Getting a loved one to kiss your booboo might actually make it feel better, recent research suggests.

Research by scientists including Stanford pain expert Sean Mackey, MD, PhD, has revealed the pain-killing effects of new, passionate, euphoric love, which seems to activate the same neural pleasure circuits as opiates and other analgesic drugs. In theory, love's painkilling effects would lose their strength as the thrill of new love loses its drug-like sensation and evolves into routine comfort. But, according to a new study led by UCLA researcher Naomi Eisenberger, PhD, love may continue to block pain even after the "honeymoon" stage.

Women who participated in the study received a series of brief, stinging electric shocks while Eisenberger used a fMRI machine to observe their brain activity. They were then asked to evaluate the degree of pain that they had felt. Women who were told to gaze at a picture of their romantic partners reported less pain than women who looked at images of strangers or objects. Eisenberger also noticed that the women who looked at their loved ones experienced increased activity in their ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain associated with feelings of comfort and reassurance. In other words, even the stability of long-term love can soothe pain. Whether anesthesiologists will begin to administer Love Potion #9 remains to be seen.

Previously: Love blocks pain, Stanford study shows and Love's painkilling abilities

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