Lifestyle & Belief

Doctors may (literally) feel your pain, study says


A new study from Harvard has shown that doctors may literally feel your pain.


Philippe Huguen

Doctors may literally feel your pain according to a new study in the US.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital found that doctors were mentally able to put themselves "in a patient's shoes."

The study used 18 physician participants from a variety of disciplines.

Researchers connected them to two devices: a pain creator and a pain reliever.

The pain reliever did not actually work but they were made to believe it could dial back the "thermal pain simulator," reported Fox News.

The physicians were asked to examine patients and then were given an fMRI while undergoing the pain-relief test.

Researchers asked the patients to enter the fMRI room where their doctor was undergoing the test.

The participant physicians were then asked to conduct the pain induction test on themselves and their patients.

Looking on, researchers noted that the areas of the brain lit up when the physicians felt pain, also lit up in the physicians when their patients felt pain (the patients were actually acting, as the pain machines were turned off for them).

When the physicians delivered the pain relief to their patients, the reward-related part of the brain, the ventral striatum, became activated, said the Los Angeles Times.

“It highlights that what was once in intangible in terms of discussing health care – well we can actually see a biology to it,” researchers said, according to Fox News.

“We think that’s a way of putting increased value in it. We like the molecules, we like the actually physiology of things besides just how patients feel and doctors feel. And this is a way of saying there is a biology and we need to pay more attention… to the doctor-patient relationship.”

The study was published this week in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.