Scientists Say Emotional Pain Has Neurological Basis

Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 08:23 AM

By Elliot Jager

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A team of international researchers announced that they now believe emotional pain has a neurological basis, according to a University of Haifa press release.

The Israeli study on emotional pain noted that patients who suffer from severe depression sometimes describe their distress in almost physical terms. Now it turns out that such a characterization could be more than metaphorical.

Research in brain stem pathway activity suggests that there is a "neurological basis for pain that stems from extreme moods," said Professor Gal Richter-Levin, head of the University of Haifa Forum for Brain and Behavior.

Referring to the interface between the forebrain and the lower brain stem, Richter-Levin said, "Due to our findings, we can for the first time begin to investigate the neurological basis for pain that stems from extreme moods."

The researchers are now looking to see if drugs can be developed that would ease the suffering of patients in severe – almost physical – distress. This would depend on identifying the specific brain mechanisms that are linked to emotional pain.

The team includes Richter-Levin and Jeansok Kim of the University of Washington. Further research is being conducted by Hansjürgen Volkmer at the University of Tuebingen in Germany.

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