Love is actually a drug that can ease pain
Apparently when you hold hands with your significant other, an area of your brain associated with pain, empathy and heart functioning known as the anterior cingulate cortex is activated.
Scientists found that the lovers’ breathing and heartbeats synchronize and the feelings of discomfort disappear when they touch.
‘The more empathic the partner and the stronger the analgesic [pain relieving] effect, the higher the synchronization between the two when they are touching,' said Dr Pavel Goldstein, from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
This can also occur when people watch an emotional movie or sing together – their heart rates and respiratory rhythms synchronize.
The study, conducted by Goldstein, brought together 22 long-term heterosexual couples between the ages of 23-32 to take part in a series of tests with the women being the subject of pain.
The experiment was conducted in a delivery room like scenario with the couples either sitting together without touching, sitting together holding hands or sitting in separate rooms.
The woman was subjected to a mild heat pain on her forearm for two minutes through the three scenarios.
The results showed that couples’ heart rates synced when they held hands and her pain decreased.
When they sat next to each other, the couples synced physiologically to some extent just by sitting together.
Synchronization was however severed when they could not touch.
Dr. Goldstein believes that with touch being a tool for communicating empathy, then that could be the reason behind women experiencing the pain-killing effect.
The research was published in the journal Scientific Reports.