A gene that predisposes to increased sensitivity to physical pain also predisposes to greater moral sensitivity to pain.
Perhaps one factor that characterizes the human being is the ability to feel physical pain or think about it. Experts say that animals do feel pain, although in a less marked than us. On the issue of pain could mean many things. Perhaps you, dear reader, do not know that there are humans who are genetically predisposed to feel more pain than others. It is interesting, or procupante, something like the way we experience physical pain depends on the genetic lottery.
We can also feel pain moral, philosophical and build complicated structures that attempt to avoid or at least to study it. For example, the pain we feel to be socially excluded, which we call “social pain”. Somehow we distinguish between these two types of pain in his time Oscar Wilde said, “God forbid physical pain, that of morals and I’ll see.” It’s a debatable point of view, especially if you have good analgesics.
Now researchers at UCLA have identified the first gene associated with a particular sensitivity to physical pain is also associated with increased sensitivity to social pain.
Their study indicates that variation in the OPRM1 receptor, often associated with physical pain, is related to how a person feels pain in response to a moral social rejection. People with a rare form of the gene is more sensitive to rejection and neurological evidence of having experienced anxiety or distress in response to rejection than other people with the most common form of the gene.
Naomi Eisenberger, a participant in the study, said the finding supports the notion that rejection “hurts” because it shows that the gene that regulates most potent natural opiate of the body is also related to social experiences painful.
In the study, researchers collected saliva samples from 122 volunteers to see how they OPRM1 gene and measured the sensitivity to rejection in two ways. In the first, participants completed a survey that measured the perception they had of their sensitivity to rejection. They were asked for example, the degree of agreement with statements like: “I am very sensitive to any sign from another person to indicate that not talk to me.”
Brain activity of members of a subset (31 participants) of this group was analyzed by functional resonance while playing a virtual game of passing the buck to other people who alleged they finally excluded from the game. In reality though they said they were real people playing like he was actually a computer program. At first it included participants in the experiment in the game, but were then excluded by the other “players”.
It was found that those participants with special shape of the OPRM1 gene that made them feel more physical pain were also more sensitive to social rejection, showing increased activity in brain areas related to social pain: dorsal anterior ring and anterior insula.
These regions have been associated with the distress caused by physical pain and previous work by these researchers showed they are also related to social rejection.
Although it has long suggested that the μ-opioid played an important role in social pain (through the use of animal models) is the first time in humans demonstrates the relationship between them, the receptor gene and social sensitivity in response to rejection.
According to Baldwin Way, also of UCLA, these findings suggest that having a broken heart or being elected to serve on the school team could activate the same circuitry as morphine. Eisenberger said that this overlap between neurology physical and social pain makes perfect sense. According to him, how social connections are so important, literally feel pain when feeling socially excluded may be an adaptive mechanism that ensures that we have these social connections. He adds that in the course of evolution, the social integration system, which ensures social connections, could be borrowed from one of the mechanisms of pain in order to maintain those connections.