“Their study indicates that variation in the mu-opioid receptor gene (OPRM1), often associated with physical pain, is related to how much social pain a person feels in response to social rejection. People with a rare form of the gene are more sensitive to rejection and experience more brain evidence of distress in response to rejection than those with the more common form.”Researchers examined the responses of 122 participants from self-report surveys on sensitivity to social rejection, after having collected and assessed their saliva to determine which OPRM1 gene they possessed. At the same time, 31 of the participants were examined through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while playing a virtual game of catch. They were told that they were tossing a ball back and forth with 2 other players who were also hooked up on fMRI machines; however the other players were computer generated. Eventually the computer players stopped tossing the ball to the subject.
"What we found is that individuals with the rare form of the OPRM1 gene, who were shown in previous work to be more sensitive to physical pain, also reported higher levels of rejection sensitivity and showed greater activity in social pain–related regions of the brain — the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and anterior insula — in response to being excluded," said Naomi Eisenberger, co-author and UCLA assistant professor of psychology and director of UCLA's Social and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory.Baldwin Way, a UCLA postdoctoral scholar and the lead author, states that the findings of this study suggest that feelings of social rejection may occur in the same neural connections that are alleviated by pain killers such as morphine.
Could such findings help to explain the complexities of addiction and lead to the development of more promising treatment options?
Genetic Link Between Physical Pain And Social Rejection Found
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