Against the grain of much twentieth-century research on the nature and function of pain in humans, which tended to focus on injury and the bodily mechanics of pain signalling, recent neuroscientific research has opened a new front in the study of social and emotional pain. The premise is simple enough: when a person says they are in pain, they are in pain. It doesn’t matter whether the cause is a broken leg or bereavement or social isolation, pain is pain. The question, then, is whether what is happening in the brain corroborates what people say about being in pain, irrespective of whether there is a physical injury.
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