Beyond metaphor: contrasting mechanisms of social and physical pain.
The aim of this article is to draw attention towards the debate concerning the mechanisms that underly social and physical pain. In recent years, there has been an ongoing debate over the possibility that social distress can be experienced as physically painful. Evidence showing the overlap of brain regions responding to nociception and social distress is often drawn upon to support the idea that they share common underlying mechanisms.
The authors of this article argue that the ‘pain matrix’ is a flawed construct based on reverse inference. Their argument is based on a growing body of evidence indicating that the bulk of brain activity commonly used to justify the link between social and physical pain is unspecific to pain. Moreover, more sensitive analysis (MVPA) of fMRI data is able to show subtle differences in the spatial patterns of activation during social and physical pain.
Different imaging techniques are used in an attempt to distinguish between different experiences such as social distress and pain. Even if there is neural overlap between these different experiences, we should remain cautious when interpreting the functional significance of this data due to the subjective nature of pain. > From: Iannetti et al., Trends in cognitive sciences (2013) Vol. 17, No. 8. All rights reserved to Elsevier B.V.
The Pubmed summary of the article can be found here.