How a Distracted Brain Works Like a Painkiller

To soften the feeling of pain, distract your mind with another task. Researchers say that investing mental energy elsewhere keeps your nervous system from receiving pain signals. 

What's the Latest Development?

New scientific evidence supports the advice that keeping your mind off a painful experience, whether physical or emotional, is an effective way to reduce the severity of physical pain you feel. In an experiment at the University Medical Center in Hamburg, Germany, individuals were divided into two groups and then connected to an instrument meant to deliver a burning sensation (at a temperature hot enough to cause pain but not damage the skin). The groups were then given brain puzzles of varying difficulty. Individuals completing the more difficult task registered a smaller pain sensation than those doing the easier puzzle. 

What's the Big Idea?

Scanning the individuals using fMRI machines, scientists determined that pain receptors along the spinal cord receive fewer signals from the brain when the mind is engaged in a more demanding exercise. Scientists then added a variable to better understand the brain's behavior. When some subjects were injected with a drug that blocks the action of opiods, "the pain-relieving effects of a distracted brain diminished by 40 percent." The suggestion is that not only is the mind distracted from pain by concentrating on something else but that it releases opioid-based compounds. So next time you have a headache, take an aspirin and do a brain puzzle to feel better. 

Photo credit:

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

People who engage in fat-shaming tend to score high in this personality trait

A new study explores how certain personality traits affect individuals' attitudes on obesity in others.

Mind & Brain
  • The study compared personality traits and obesity views among more than 3,000 mothers.
  • The results showed that the personality traits neuroticism and extraversion are linked to more negative views and behaviors related to obesity.
  • People who scored high in conscientiousness are more likely to experience "fat phobia.
Keep reading Show less

4 anti-scientific beliefs and their damaging consequences

The rise of anti-scientific thinking and conspiracy is a concerning trend.

Moon Landing Apollo
  • Fifty years later after one of the greatest achievements of mankind, there's a growing number of moon landing deniers. They are part of a larger trend of anti-scientific thinking.
  • Climate change, anti-vaccination and other assorted conspiratorial mindsets are a detriment and show a tangible impediment to fostering real progress or societal change.
  • All of these separate anti-scientific beliefs share a troubling root of intellectual dishonesty and ignorance.
Keep reading Show less

Reigning in brutality - how one man's outrage led to the Red Cross and the Geneva Conventions

The history of the Geneva Conventions tells us how the international community draws the line on brutality.

Napoleon III at the Battle of Solferino. Painting by Adolphe Yvon. 1861.
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Henry Dunant's work led to the Red Cross and conventions on treating prisoners humanely.
  • Four Geneva Conventions defined the rules for prisoners of war, torture, naval and medical personnel and more.
  • Amendments to the agreements reflect the modern world but have not been ratified by all countries.
Keep reading Show less