The Loh Down On Science

Rejection Connection

Is life just junior high school, over and over again?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

As anyone who remembers adolescence knows, social exclusion hurts! And for good reason: Belonging is key to human survival. So our brains may have evolved to process emotional and physical pain similarly.    

Psychologist Paolo Riva at Italy’s University of Milan wondered: just how closely are these pain types related?

To find out, Riva sat volunteers at computers with electrodes taped over a brain region known to regulate physical pain. Each volunteer played a virtual game of catch supposedly with two other online players. Meanwhile, the electrodes mildly blocked the physical-pain-regulating brain region.

But: fakeout! Half the players had mean companions who excluded them from the game! And some did not get the pain blocking.

What happened? Excluded players who received real stimulation felt less left out!

So physical and emotional pain are regulated by the same brain region! Riva says the findings could lead to new treatments for loneliness.

As well as Diary of a Wimpy Kid numbers 8, 9, 10, and 11.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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