Brain Produces Natural Painkillers When Socially Rejected

By Phineas Upham

We know what happens to our feelings when someone rejects us; they get hurt. But what happens in our brains when someone rejects us? A new study reveals that the brain produces natural painkillers when an individual is socially rejected, Science Daily reports.

According to a study published in Molecular Psychiatry by a team from University of Michigan Medical School, the brain not only produces natural painkillers during social rejection, it produces more of it if the individual has more resilience. According to the article, the team used a brain scanning system to track the release of a chemical in the brain during social rejection while online dating. The article states that the study focused on the same area of the brain that responds to physical pain. Prior research has shown that when an individual experiences physical pain, their brain dampens the pain signals by releasing chemicals called opioids into the area between neurons.

“This is the first study to peer into the human brain to show that the opioid system is activated during social rejection,” David T. Hsu, Ph.D., a research assistant professor of psychiatry and lead author of the paper, told Science Daily. “In general, opioids have been known to be released during social distress and isolation in animals, but where this occurs in the human brain has not been shown until now.”

Hsu also told the paper that the personality of the participants had a lot to do with how much opioids were produced by the brain. According to the article, the people who scored high on the resiliency trait test were able to produce more of the chemical during social rejection. What’s more, participants with the most opioids produced in the brain reported being in a better mood than the other participants.

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Phineas Upham is an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Phineas Upham website or Facebook page.