Published on March 4th, 20130
Pain can trigger pleasure: A new study explains why some people like peppers or sadomasochism
When something produces much less pain than expected, people feel relieved, which is why it may seem a pleasant sensation, suggests a new study.
Norwegian researchers say their findings show how the same stimulus can be interpreted very differently and that experience depends on expectations and context. Also, it seems that these findings explain why some people like the feeling caused by eating peppers or why others prefer sadomasochism.
On the other hand, the authors do not exclude the possibility that, one day, the findings of research to help treat pain and substance abuse.
Siri Leknes psychologist at the University of Oslo studied this effect on 16 healthy subjects asked to prepare for a painful experiment. More specifically their arms were exposed repeatedly (for 4 seconds) to heat with different intensity. The experiment was conducted in two different contexts: first, the heat to which they were exposed was either painless or only slightly painful was, and second, the heat is causing moderate pain, one or intense. Meanwhile, the brains of subjects were scanned using magnetic resonance techniques.
As expected, the intense heat that cause pain trigger negative feelings among study participants, while heat pulses which cause pain evoked positive feelings.
What has intrigued researchers was subjective response to moderate pain. In experiments in which pain was moderate alternative worst pain experienced was unpleasant. Instead, when intense pain was the worst alternative, moderate pain was seen as a positive thing, even comforting.
“The most likely explanation is that subjects were prepared for the worst and felt relieved when they realized that the pain was not as bad as thought“, said Leknes.
In other words, the feeling of relaxation can be strong enough to turn a negative experience such as pain in a comforting feeling, even pleasant.
Also, subjects changed their brains processing module according to the context and alternative moderate pain. When pain was refreshing, areas of the brain associated with pleasure and less pain associated with activity in the area.
“This is why it is very important to know how and to what extent the brain controls pain“, explained Dr. Leknes.
Source: Daily Mail