Rejection is Physical Pain

April 24th, 2011

Randolph E. Schmid: The pain of rejection is more than just a figure of speech. The regions of the brain that respond to physical pain overlap those that react to social rejection, according to a new study that used brain imaging on people involved in romantic breakups.

“These results give new meaning to the idea that rejection `hurts,'” wrote psychology professor Ethan Kross of the University of Michigan and his colleagues. Their findings are reported in Tuesday’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Co-author Edward Smith of Columbia University explained that the research shows that psychological or social events can affect regions of the brain that scientists thought were dedicated to physical pain. In a way, we’re saying “it’s not a metaphor,” Smith said in a telephone interview.


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