Science Market Update

UT Austin Science Researchers Compare Physical and Emotional Pain

Posted by Jennifer Nieuwkerk on Tue, Sep 09, 2014

If you have ever had a severe headache, you may have noticed how pain takes a toll on your emotional state, especially if you have ever experienced a migraine. Taking pain medication can help with how a headache feels physically, but what effects does pain relief have on people emotionally? Believe it or not, a number of studies have been conducted on how pain medication like ibuprofen can ameliorate emotional pain. Research has proven that ibuprofen can indeed relieve emotional stress, but scientists at the University of Texas, Austin have recently discovered that it is much more effective on women than on men. Men who take the drug say that they experience harsher feelings of rejection, while women report feeling better.

"It's possible that taking physical pain relievers provides men with more cognitive resources to express the pain they feel," said UT Austin science researcher Anita Vangelisti. "There's some evidence that, for men, the part of the brain that enables them to regulate their emotions is linked to the part of the brain that processes physical and social pain. If that's the case, taking a physical pain reliever may affect men's ability to hide or suppress their social pain."

The scientists based their research on analyzing responses from 138 university students — 62 men and 76 women. After an initial screening, half of the study participants took 400 mg of ibuprofen and the other half received a placebo. One part of the study involved playing a computer game called "Cyberball," in which a virtual ball is passed around, but participants are socially excluded. These participants were asked to rate their emotions after playing the game. Overall, women who take ibuprofen and played the game reported feeling less emotionally stressed, while men who took ibuprofen and also played the game were in a lower state emotionally.


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University of Texas, Austin campus

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


"Hurt feelings are a part of any close relationship, so learning how to think and talk about the social pain we experience in our relationships is important," said Vangelisti. "Understanding differences in the way women and men deal with their hurt feelings could go a long way toward helping couples cope with these feelings in their romantic and marital relationships."

Recent research studies have concluded that both emotional and pysical pain activate similar regions of the brain. That different sexes respond differently to relieved physical pain reveals that men and women have dissimilar ways of dealing with social pain through over-the-counter medicines. This new information could be especially helpful in forming responses in therapy to adolescents who experience bullying and adults dealing with high amounts of emotional pain.

Scientists at the University of Texas, Austin conduct a large number of compelling research studies on a yearly basis in addition to this one concerning physical and emotional pain. The U.S. News & World Report ranked 40 University of Texas, Austin programs at the graduate level in the top 10 nationally. An additional 18 were ranked in the top 25. The report also listed the university as number 52 in a list of the best national universities. The graduate program in ecology and evolutionary biology was ranked number 7 nationally, while the graduate program in pharmacy ranked the 4th best program in the country. In Newsweek’s university rankings, the University of Texas, Austin ranked 12th on its 2010 list of “The 25 Most Desirable Large Schools.”

Scientists at the University of Texas, Austin receive a significant amount of funding to follow through with their research goals. So far in 2014, the National Institutes of Health has awarded the University of Texas, Austin $47.3 million in research funding. In 2013, the National Science Foundation also awarded the University of Texas, Austin $61.6 million in funding.

Lab suppliers working to market innovative solutions to life science professionals conducting studies such as Dr. Vangelisti’s research on physical and emotional pain won’t want to miss Biotechnology Calendar, Inc.’s UT Austin life science vendor show. The BioResearch Product Faire™ Event at the University of Texas, Austin will take place on September 17th, 2014. If you would like to market within a top funded research market closer to home, we encourage you to view the 2014 calendar of events. For more UT Austin funding statistics and vendor show information, click on the button below. 


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Tags: 2014, University of Texas Austin, university rankings, Texas, UTAustin, BioResearch Product Faire Event, Research Funding, TX, Ausin, pain relief study

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