Calming: A photo of a loved on dulls activity in the pain-processing areas of the brain, to the same degree as paracetamol or cocaine, scientists claim.
Photographs of loved ones have the power to dull pain, scientists have discovered.
Researchers found that an image of a romantic partner dulls activity in the pain-processing areas of the brain, to the same degree as paracetamol or narcotics such as cocaine.
A study by Stanford University found direct evidence linking feelings of emotional attachment with the soothing of pain.
The brains of lovestruck students were subjected to MRI scans as they focused on photographs of partners while varying levels of heat pain were applied to their skin.
Neuroscientist Jarred Younger found, on average, pain was reduced by between 36 and 44 per cent, with intense discomfort eased by up to 13 per cent.
In a study published in the US journal Public Library of Science, the post-doctoral scholar said: 'The reduction of pain is associated with higher, cortical parts of the brain.
'Love-induced analgesia is much more associated with the reward centres.
'The region tells the brain that you really need to keep doing this. This tells us that you don't have to just rely on drugs for pain relief.
'People are feeling intense rewards without the side effects of drugs.'
In a separate analysis, psychologists studied 25 women and their boyfriends of more than six months, subjecting them to different levels of pain, using a sharp, prickling sensation.
During the various 'stimulations', the women either held their boyfriend's hand or the hand of a male stranger, both of whom were hidden behind a curtain.
In other cases, the women were asked to view a photograph of their boyfriend, or a picture of a male stranger while being subjected to discomfort.
Researchers at the University of California, where the study took place, discovered the women showed significantly reduced pain experience while holding their partner's hand.
But surprisingly, the photograph of their romantic partner provided equally effective pain relief, and both cases were far greater than when a stranger was involved.