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Intense love can conquer pain

Intense feelings of love can defeat pain, according to research.

American scientists discovered that pangs of passion can have a similar effect to morphine in blocking out physical pain.

Researchers tested the theory on 15 male and female university students who were all in the early stages of relationships.

They were each shown pictures of the objects of their affection while a heat probe delivered mild doses of pain to the palms of their hands.

During the experiment their brain activity was recorded by a functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) imaging machine.

Participants were also shown pictures of an attractive individual that was not their partner to act as a comparison.

The results revealed that feelings of love act as a powerful analgesic, while a photo of a random attractive person did not have the same effect.

The scans revealed that the effects of love could be compared with those of morphine and cocaine, both of which target the brain's "reward centres".

Study leader Dr Sean Mackey, head of the Division of Pain Management at Stanford University Medical Centre in California, said: "When people are in this passionate, all-consuming phase of love, there are significant alterations in their mood that are impacting their experience of pain."

Copyright © Press Association 2010

Dr Sean Mackey