Separate Neural Representations for Physical Pain and Social Rejection

Nature Communications, Vol. 5, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms6380, 2014

Posted: 28 Oct 2016

See all articles by Choong-Wan Woo

Choong-Wan Woo

University of Colorado at Boulder

Leonie Koban

University of Colorado at Boulder

Ethan Kross

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Martin Lindquist

Columbia University

Marie Banich

University of Colorado at Boulder

Luka Ruzic

Duke University

Jessica Andrews-Hanna

University of Colorado at Boulder

Tor Wager

University of Colorado at Boulder

Date Written: 2014

Abstract

Current theories suggest that physical pain and social rejection share common neural mechanisms, largely by virtue of overlapping functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) activity. Here we challenge this notion by identifying distinct multivariate fMRI patterns unique to pain and rejection. Sixty participants experience painful heat and warmth and view photos of ex-partners and friends on separate trials. FMRI pattern classifiers discriminate pain and rejection from their respective control conditions in out-of-sample individuals with 92% and 80% accuracy. The rejection classifier performs at chance on pain, and vice versa. Pain- and rejection-related representations are uncorrelated within regions thought to encode pain affect (for example, dorsal anterior cingulate) and show distinct functional connectivity with other regions in a separate resting-state data set (N=91). These findings demonstrate that separate representations underlie pain and rejection despite common fMRI activity at the gross anatomical level. Rather than co-opting pain circuitry, rejection involves distinct affective representations in humans.

Suggested Citation

Woo, Choong-Wan and Koban, Leonie and Kross, Ethan and Lindquist, Martin and Banich, Marie and Ruzic, Luka and Andrews-Hanna, Jessica and Wager, Tor, Separate Neural Representations for Physical Pain and Social Rejection (2014). Nature Communications, Vol. 5, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms6380, 2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2857956

Choong-Wan Woo

University of Colorado at Boulder ( email )

1070 Edinboro Drive
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

Leonie Koban

University of Colorado at Boulder ( email )

1070 Edinboro Drive
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

Ethan Kross

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

500 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Martin Lindquist

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Marie Banich

University of Colorado at Boulder ( email )

1070 Edinboro Drive
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

Luka Ruzic

Duke University ( email )

100 Fuqua Drive
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

Jessica Andrews-Hanna

University of Colorado at Boulder ( email )

1070 Edinboro Drive
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

Tor Wager (Contact Author)

University of Colorado at Boulder ( email )

Boulder, CO

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