The romantic stage of a new love can be a blissful experience—otherworldly even. Love has been described as a drug for ages, and now a Stanford University study finds, that love is, indeed, a painkiller, with effects comparable to cocaine. The study was performed by pain scientists and a psychologist who focuses on love. The results were published Wednesday in the journal PLoS One.

The team took earlier studies suggesting that love relieved pain into consideration; but this particular study reports findings on love’s effect on the brain. The duo gathered Stanford undergraduates who were in the first nine months of a relationship—known as the “romantic stage.”

Fifteen subjects were tested, each was asked to bring in three photos of their boyfriend or girlfriend, and an additional three photos of uninvolved people who were comparatively as attractive. Researchers then heated the subject’s left palms prompting a moderate to high degree of pain, and were asked to look at the pictures.

Results were varying yet fascinating. The subjects were asked to carry out a series of mental actions. For example, thinking of a sports activity that didn’t involve a ball. The effects of distraction were then recorded, while the  participant’s palms remained heated.

While the photo of the uninvolved comparatively attractive person yielded no effects, the photo of the person for whom the subject had love reduced pain on the palm at a 36 to 45 percentage for moderate pain, and 12 to 13 percent for high pain. A functional MRI was taken revealing the mental-distraction actually activated different parts of the brain.

According to the report, participants included eight women and seven men, ages 19-21 years-old. All subjects described themselves as intensely in love, and scored a minimum sum of 90 on the 9-point scale, 15-item form of the Passionate Love Scale.

What do you think about this study’s findings? Has love ever relieved your pain? Sound off!

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