ScienceDaily (Oct. 14, 2010) — Intense, passionate feelings of love can provide amazingly effective pain relief, similar to painkillers or such illicit drugs as cocaine, according to a new Stanford University School of Medicine study.


“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, which will be published online Oct. 13 in PLoS ONE. “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.”

“当人们在充满激情,所有强烈的感觉都是爱情的时候,他们会有显著的情绪变化,影响他们所经历的的痛苦。” 疼痛管理司主任,麻醉专业副教授和相关研究的资深作家肖恩.麦基博士说,这项结果将于10月13日在网上公布。 “我们开始对大脑中起到奖赏系统作用的部分进行层次分解,并研究它们是如何影响疼痛的。这些一直深藏在我们大脑中起作用的系统会释放多巴胺————一种影响情绪,奖励与激励作用的主要的神经递质”

Scientists aren’t quite yet ready to tell patients with chronic pain to throw out the painkillers and replace them with a passionate love affair; rather, the hope is that a better understanding of these neural-rewards pathways that get triggered by love could lead to new methods for producing pain relief.


“It turns out that the areas of the brain activated by intense love are the same areas that drugs use to reduce pain,” said Arthur Aron, PhD, a professor of psychology at State University of New York at Stony Brook and one of the study’s authors. Aron has been studying love for 30 years. “When thinking about your beloved, there is intense activation in the reward area of the brain — the same area that lights up when you take cocaine, the same area that lights up when you win a lot of money.”

“事实证明,由强烈的爱情激活的大脑区域与用来减轻疼痛的药物作用的区域相同”,纽约州立大学石溪分校心理学教授和研究报告的另一个作者Arthur Aron博士说。  Aron博士研究爱的作用已经长达30年。 “当你在想你钟爱的东西的时候,大脑的奖赏区域有强烈激活作用 – 这根当你吸食可卡因或是你赢了很多钱的时候激活的是同一区域。”

The concept for the study was sparked several years ago at a neuroscience conference when Aron, an expert in the study of love, met up with Mackey, an expert in the research of pain, and they began talking.


“Art was talking about love,” Mackey said. “I was talking about pain. He was talking about the brain systems involved with love. I was talking about the brain systems involved with pain. We realized there was this tremendous overlapping system. We started wondering, ‘Is it possible that the two modulate each other?'”

“艺术谈论的是爱情,”麦基说。 “我研究的是疼痛。他研究的是爱所涉及的脑神经系统。我研究的是疼痛有关的脑神经系统。我们发现这两者之间有巨大的重叠区域。我们开始想,’这两者有没有可能彼此调节?“

After the conference, Mackey returned to Stanford and collaborated with postdoctoral scholar Jarred Younger, PhD, now an assistant professor of anesthesia, who was also intrigued with the idea. Together the three set up a study that would entail examining the brain images of undergraduates who claimed to be “in that first phase of intense love.”

会后,麦基回到斯坦福大学和被这个想法机激起了很大的兴趣的博士后学者,现在是麻醉助理教授的贾里德.扬格瑞博士合作。 三个人一起设立了一项研究,需要扫描那些自称是“在强烈的爱的阶段”的 大学生的脑图像。

“We posted fliers around Stanford University and within hours we had undergrads banging on our door,” Mackey said. The fliers asked for couples who were in the first nine months of a romantic relationship.

“我们在斯坦福大学周围贴了传单,几个小时内就有本科生敲门。”麦基说。 传单要求情侣在确定恋爱关系的前九个月内。

“It was clearly the easiest study the pain center at Stanford has ever recruited for,” Mackey said. “When you’re in love you want to tell everybody about it.

“这显然是斯坦福疼痛研究中心最容易招募研究对象的研究,”麦基说。 “当你坠入爱河时的时候你会特别想要告诉大家。”

“We intentionally focused on this early phase of passionate love,” he added. “We specifically were not looking for longer-lasting, more mature phases of the relationship. We wanted subjects who were feeling euphoric, energetic, obsessively thinking about their beloved, craving their presence.

“我们有意找处在这个早期阶段的热烈的爱,”他补充说。 “我们并没有专门找更持久,更成熟的阶段的恋爱关系。我们希望研究对象心情愉悦,精力充沛,对自己心爱的人痴迷,渴望他们的存在。“

“When passionate love is described like this, it in some ways sounds like an addiction. We thought, ‘Maybe this does involve similar brain systems as those involved in addictions which are heavily dopamine-related.’ Dopamine is the neurotransmitter in our brain that is intimately involved with feeling good.”

“热烈的爱情是这样描述的:在某些方面它听起来像是一种瘾。我们认为,’也许这确实会涉及那些与重瘾有关的多巴胺类似的脑神经系统。’ 多巴胺是大脑中与好的感觉密切相关的神经递质。“

Researchers recruited 15 undergraduates (eight women and seven men) for the study. Each was asked to bring in photos of their beloved and photos of an equally attractive acquaintance. The researchers then successively flashed the pictures before the subjects, while heating up a computer-controlled thermal stimulator placed in the palm of their hand to cause mild pain. At the same time, their brains were scanned in a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine.

研究人员招募了15个大学生做研究(七男八女)。 每一个都被要求带着他们心爱的认得和一个同样有吸引力的照片。 接着,研究人员不断在研究对象面前闪现在这些图片,同时把计算机控制的热刺激放在研究对象手掌心造成轻微疼痛。 与此同时,对他们的大脑进行磁共振成像扫描。

The undergraduates were also tested for levels of pain relief while being distracted with word-association tasks such as: “Think of sports that don’t involve balls.” Scientific evidence has shown in the past that distraction causes pain relief, and researchers wanted to make sure that love was not just working as a distraction from pain.

同时对这些在校大学生进行分心止痛测试,就是给他们提示一些文字以分散注意力,比如:“说出不涉及球的体育项目。” 科学证据显示,在过去的分心导致疼痛缓解,研究人员希望确定爱的力量不仅是通过分散注意力来缓解痛苦。

Results showed that both love and distraction did equally reduce pain, and at much higher levels than by concentrating on the photo of the attractive acquaintance, but interestingly the two methods of pain reduction used very different brain pathways.


“With the distraction test, the brain pathways leading to pain relief were mostly cognitive,” Younger said. “The reduction of pain was associated with higher, cortical parts of the brain. Love-induced analgesia is much more associated with the reward centers. It appears to involve more primitive aspects of the brain, activating deep structures that may block pain at a spinal level — similar to how opioid analgesics work.

“随着牵引试验,缓解疼痛的大脑途径大多是认知的,”雅戈尔说。 他说:“疼痛减轻与较高层的大脑皮质部分有关。恋爱的镇痛作用更与奖励中心有关。这似乎涉及到大脑更原始的问题,激活深层结构可能会阻止在脊椎级的疼痛 – 与阿司匹林片类镇痛药的作用相似。

“One of the key sites for love-induced analgesia is the nucleus accumbens, a key reward addiction center for opioids, cocaine and other drugs of abuse. The region tells the brain that you really need to keep doing this,” Younger said.


“This tells us that you don’t have to just rely on drugs for pain relief,” Aron said. “People are feeling intense rewards without the side effects of drugs.”

“这告诉我们,你不必仅仅依靠止痛药”阿隆说。 “人们的感觉可以有强烈的作用而没有药物的副作用。”

Other Stanford contributors include research assistants Sara Parke and Neil Chatterjee.


Funding for the study was received from the Chris Redlich Pain Research Fund.



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