Shot Through The Heart? New Studies Link Breaking Up to Physical Pain in Your Brain

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This week has been a hard week. Not only is it really go time and students need to start studying for finals, but I recently had a very difficult break up with my boyfriend. There were tears and tissues, but most of all pain. This got me to wondering whether or not this pain I felt was actually real. Of course emotionally I was in pain, but how was my brain reacting to this breakup? I then came across this article explaining what the brain goes through after a breakup.

This article, written by Melanie Greenberg, begins with a summary of research done at Colombia University. Researchers showed participants pictures of their ex-partner, pictures of their friends, then were touched with a hot probe all while being connected to an fMRI machine. These researchers discovered that the brain would light up in the same place it did for the ex-partner photo as it did with the hot probe, suggesting that the brain relates this person to physical pain. The researchers reasoning behind this reaction goes back to evolution. If someone is physically in pain or has recently faced rejection, then this reduces one’s chance for survival. This has not been proven.

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The article then discusses another study that relates relationships to an addiction. When participants would look at their ex-partners their brains would light up around the “reward/motivation system” that tells the neurotransmitters to release dopamine. Dopamine is seen in drug addition and new love, showing that those exposed to drugs or new love are craving more more more. Ke$ha was right in saying, “Your love is my drug.”

Now to the validity of this article. First and foremost, it is vague. There are no links or connections to these ‘studies’ that have been mentioned, nor are there the names of the researchers of that particular study. Next, the website itself. Wikipedia quotes the mission of Psychology Today is to “get information to the general public easier”, and has blogs and articles posted by doctors, social workers, and other academics. This makes it seem like a pretty reliable source. The author herself also seems pretty reliable. A quick google search informed me that she is a published author, a great public speaker, and somewhat of a celebrity with all her TV appearances.

I really just wish there was more data in this article. It fell flat with any concrete evidence. The article ends with some helpful tips on how to “get over a break up” yet does not have any real explanation on what is going on in the body without being vague. I suppose I will just have to figure out what is going on in my brain with me, myself, and I. Maybe my therapist too.

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Author: Emma T

Technical Theatre Major

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