The Placebo Effect Can Help Fix A Broken Heart, CU Boulder Study Reveals [Video]By Emily Marks, UniversityHerald Reporter
How does one fix a broken heart? Apparently, it's not that complicated. A study by the University of Colorado at Boulder has found that heartbroken people just need to believe that they are doing something to move on.
The study measured the neurological and behavioral effects that the placebo effect had on a group of volunteers. The brain regions involved are associated with emotional regulation and the perception of pain.
In a post on CU Boulder's official website, Leonie Koban, first author and postdoctoral research associate, said that going through a breakup is one of the most emotionally negative experiences that a person can have. This can often lead to the development of psychological problems.
Social pain was found to be linked with a 20-fold higher risk of developing depression. The researchers found that a placebo can play a significant role in reducing the intensity of social pain.
The study was published in the "Journal of Neuroscience." It is the first to examine placebos' impact on emotional pain caused by romantic rejection.
40 volunteers who had gone through an "unwanted romantic breakup" in the past six months were recruited in the study. They were required to bring a photo of their ex and a photo of a same-gendered good friend to a brain-imaging lab.
The participants were shown the images of their former partner inside a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine. They were also asked to recall the breakup.
Afterwards, they were shown images of their friend as well as subjected to physical pain, which is a hot stimulus on their left forearm. The regions that lit up during physical and emotional pain were similar but not identical.
The subjects were asked to rate how they felt on a scale of one (very bad) to five (very good). They were then given a nasal spray with which half of the subjects were told that it was a "powerful analgesic" that can reduce emotional pain while half were told that it was a simple saline solution.
The researchers found that the placebo group responded differently when shown the picture of their ex again. They felt less physical pain and felt better emotionally.