How the Brain Shapes Pain and Links Ouch With Emotion

In dogs, for example, pain appears to cause emotional distress much the same way it does in people. And there must be a reason for that, Robyn Crook says. One possibility, she says, involves memory. “Having that emotional component linked to the sensory experience really is a great enhancer of memory,” she says. “And so humans, for example, can remember a single painful experience sometimes for their entire lives.” So they never touch that hot stove again. And there may be another reason that people and other highly social animals have brains that connect pain and emotion, Crook says. “Experiencing pain yourself produces empathy for other group members or other family members that are in pain,” she says. As a result, if one of them is injured “you will offer help to them because of the empathetic response or the emotional response to pain.”

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