Is Your Heart Truly Broken?
usinfo | 2013-12-04 19:46
Why do we feel such profound physical pain when our social relationships are threatened? Why do we feel so high and on top of the world when we are embraced by those we love?

Psychologists at the University of California have uncovered a genetic link between physical pain and social rejection while studying the gene responsible for the body's painkillers called mu-opioids. They found that people with a rare deviation of OPRM1, the mu-opoid receptor gene, were more sensitive to rejection and experienced more brain evidence of distress than those with the more common form. These researchers use behavioral, physiological, and neuro imaging techniques to understand how our need for social connection has left its meta program in our minds, brains, and bodies. There appears to be a neural basis for social connections, which can directly affect our ability to bounce back or remain deeply entrenched in physically painful feelings. People often express their feelings using physical pain words such as "hurt" feelings or "broken hearts" when they feel rejected or left out. This research has shown that feeling socially excluded activates some of the same neural regions that are activated in response to physical pain, suggesting that social rejection indeed is excruciatingly painful. This research continues to examine the genetic elements of sensitivity to rejection as well as whether the fear of rejection plays a part in different neural circuitry.
We all know the feeling that we have when we feel truly connected to someone else. However, we know very little about the neural circuitry that may be responsible in part for this feeling or the physiological processes that go along with it. There appears to be a sense of social warmth and acceptance when in the company of those close to us. While some people enjoy their alone time and need fewer social interactions, some need their circle of friends. Our society views those that are independent as better able to cope socially than those that need to connect more when it may very well be beyond their control. Social support and the lack thereof can be a potent factor in declined physical health along with smoking and high blood pressure.
Opioids are chemicals that produce a euphoric feeling like being connected to someone or being in love and are naturally produced by our brains to help control pain. Chocolate causes the brain to release opioids. Apparently one of the effects of chocolate on the brain is to release natural endorphins so that when we eat chocolate, it dulls pain and gives us a little euphoric feeling.
So the next time a love one brings you a box of chocolates. Be euphoric.
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