In a study published online in the journal PLoS One, researchers Arthur Aron of State University of New York- Stony Brook and Dr. Sean Mackey of Stanford University presented findings that indicate love, at least in the early stages, can lessen physical pain. The team tested 15 subjects, who were asked to bring in photos of their partner, and photos of an attractive acquaintance. Researchers then heated the palms of the subject’s left hands, causing moderate to high levels of pain. During the palm heating, subjects were asked to look at a photo of their partners, or of the attractive acquaintance. The researchers also tested the effects of basic distraction by having subjects think of something other than the pain, like sports. They found that while photos of partners, and basic distractions seemed to reduce the pain, the photos of a purely attractive face did not. By scanning their brains with an MRI, the researchers also noticed that the photos and mental distractions activated different parts of the brain. Looking at the romantic partner engaged more primitive, reward regions of the brain like the amygdala and the nucleus accumbens, while the distraction task engaged the higher, more intellectual-assessment parts of the brain. “It tells us there’s a lot more to the experience of pain than just the injury,” Mackey said. The researchers believe that understanding the power of a loved one could lead to effective therapy techniques which might help individuals relieve pain without drugs, or even help people quit smoking.