Neuroscientist Lucy Brown describes the science behind heartbreak, and why the boundary between emotional and physical pain isn't as firm as people think.
Upload Date: Feb 24, 2021
Neuroscientist Lucy Brown describes the science behind heartbreak, and why the boundary between emotional and physical pain isn't as firm as we once thought. To study the neurobiology behind heartbreak, Lucy put heartbroken college kids in an MRI and taped a picture of their ex in front of them, then took images of the part of their brains that lit up.
today on the show. The new research on heartbreak on what science can teach us about how to get over our exes when it comes to hot break, there's lots of it was just like, completely devastated. But then there's science. Today we are finding out what science can tell us about heartbreak, and we want to start with what is happening in our brain. So for this, we need My name is Lucy Brown. I'm a neuroscientist. Lucy is a professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and she said that when her colleagues found out that she wanted to study heartbreak, there were a lot of haters. Neuroscientists said, Oh, it's, you know, too messy, too much emotion. You can't study it scientifically. It seems magical. We said, Oh, we think maybe we can. On DSO, Lucy and a few colleagues took a crack at it on Their idea was that if you put heartbroken people into an M R. I, maybe you could see heartbreak in their brain like that. Their brains would light up in a unique way. First step, the heartbreak squad needed a bunch of people who are heartbroken being at universities. They put out flyers all over the campus saying, Have you just been rejected in love but can't let go? Give us a call on Then, as puffy eyed college kids walk through their door, the researchers asked them a ton of questions to make sure that they were truly, truly heartbroken, like Rose Level heartbroken. The main thing is that they can't stop thinking about the other person, that it's really being obsessed with thinking about the other person. They're crying a lot. They can't sleep. 15 sleep deprived sad sacks fit the bill for Lucy's experiment. Now step to the brain scan to make sure that their guinea pigs would be all sad and heartbroken. While in the Marie, the researchers asked them to bring in a photo of their once beloved's face. So they were looking into their dumpers eyes while they were in the Marie. Believe me, when you're in that machine and you open your eyes and you know it's like right there you are immersed in that person. Yeah, that must have been awful. Oh, they were crying toe remembering the heartbreak. Yes, they really came out crying. Oh, yeah, Yeah. Tears in the in the scanner tears down their face. Yes, to be able to see what was heartbreak and what was just regular brain. Lucy and her team needed to do one final thing. They had the same college kids go back into the Marai, but this time they looked at a photo of someone else. Someone, they weren't emotionally attached to it all. Then the researchers compared the two, and Lucy remembers when the results from each scan started coming in. E dio dio. When I first put you know the 1st 10 and then 12 and then 14 and I first looked at that, it was pretty amazing. The experiment worked on Lucy told us that she saw a few really curious things in those heartbroken brains. One of the things that was interesting is that a part of the brain that registers physical pain was active, so we weren't feeling the physical pain, you know, like a pinch or cut or broken bone. But that part of the brain that says that this hurts that's active so interesting, like I think about that as different things to break my leg, to break up with someone. But it's not that different. It's not that different. It's not just the physical pain. It's not just the emotional pain. Those two are interacting all the time. Now this is just one small study. But it does fit well with a growing body of research, which is showing this connection between physical pain and emotional pain. And it's all suggesting that when people say I'm hurting, they literally are hurting on. This doesn't just happen in heartbreak. It can also happen at other times when were rejected. Like when we get bullied or left out of the game, it's what signs calls social rejection. Okay, so that's the hurting part of a break up. But Lucy also saw that when these heartbroken saps looked at their axes, another part of the brain lit up the rewards.