University of Michigan researchers used PET imaging to track chemical releases in the brain and found that when people experienced social pain or rejection the brain activated its opioid response pathway much as it would for physical pain. The study in the journal Molecular Psychiatry found the effects of social rejection were greatest in the ventral striatum, midline thalamus, amygdala and periaqueductal grey areas, which are involved in physical pain, and that greater opioid release in the pregenual cingulate cortex was linked to reduced reporting of bad moods by study participants.

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