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...so we had people play this little ball tossing game on the computer while they were laying in an MRI scanner. And you think you're playing with two other people who are also in scanners. And then at a certain point in the game we actually arrange it so that the other two players stop throwing you the ball. And so you get left out of the game for the remainder of the game. You're just sitting there waiting for the ball to come back to you.
And when we looked at the brains of these individuals who had just been rejected, we saw two fascinating things. The first thing we saw was that the same brain regions that registered the distress of physical pain were also more active when people were left out of the game compared to when they were included. And then the second thing we saw was that the people who told us they were more bothered by being left out of the game were the people who activated these brain regions the most intensely.
And then I think the finding that tends to really grab people after they hear these initial findings is much later work that shows that if you take Tylenol, it can actually make these effects go away.
Yeah. I just had a minor role in a study that was published a number of years ago, and the strange thing is if you look at the folks who are experiencing normal grief, you'll see activity in the pain distress regions of the brain. But if you look at folks who are experiencing chronic grief, where they don't seem to recover - my grandmother, I think, went through this when my grandfather passed away.
She spent 15 years really in a true grief state, for the rest of her life. When you look at these individuals, in addition to that social pain response in the brain, you will also see a reward response that's also being activated, a little bit like someone who would, say, like to quit drugs, but still finds those things rewarding because there is an addiction to those things that are bad for us.
And so I think that that was what differentiated folks who couldn't recover, is that there was still something rewarding about staying attached to this memory in a way that other folks seem to - little by little, seem to let go of their tight clinch on.
So I sometimes describe this as one of our social superpowers. So, we have the ability - and we use it countless times each day, so often we probably don't recognize it - where we can sort of peer into the minds of those around us and imagine how they're currently responding to some situation, what their thoughts and feelings are, or what their response would be to some novel situation.
... It's both a default system, because it comes on by default, but it's also a kind of mind-reading system, because largely these regions are involved in reading the minds of others and trying to understand what's going on with them.
reply to post by winofiend
I think he just mentioned the Tylenol as an interesting little tidbit they discovered during their research. I don't think he was saying take a Tylenol every time you have a negative reaction to a social encounter and I am certainly not recommending it
I think with the rest of the thread in mind also, it speaks a lot as to how we can naturally treat physical pain via meditation/stretching/diet that might be a product of social stress.
reply to post by ValentineWiggin
This subject makes so much sense to me. We are not just a physical being. We are a physical, mental and spiritual being. And I truly believe we are connected to one another. Therefore, the empathy makes perfect sense. At least to me.
I am going to read this more thoroughly, then... I'll be back.
If you read or listen to the rest of the podcast, it's really not making any claims about this phenomena being attributed to anything remotely spiritual. We owe a great deal of our success as a species to our ability to cooperate with other members of the same group to achieve greater goals; this cooperation is dependant on pro-social mechanisms and it makes sense that the pain that the author of this work has mentioned would perhaps be an evolutionary response to the need to work cohesively as a group. Indeed, this is what he himself mentions in the podcast in response to another question.