London: Next time you are in immense pain, just look at the photograph of your loved one, it may reduce your suffering by 44 per cent, scientists say.

A study by researchers at the Stanford University found that an image of a romantic partner dulls activity in the pain-processing areas of the brain, to the same degree as paracetamol or narcotics such as cocaine.

The researchers, who looked at a group of love struck students, said they found direct evidence that links feelings of emotional attachment with the soothing of pain.

The participating students were subjected to brain MRI scans as they focused on photographs of their partners while varying levels of heat pain were applied to their skin.

On average, pain was reduced by between 36 and 44 per cent, with intense discomfort eased by up to 13 per cent, said Jarred Younger, who led the study, published in journal Public Library of Science.

Younger said: "The reduction of pain is associated with higher, cortical parts of the brain. Love-induced analgesia is much more associated with the reward centres. It appears to involve more primitive aspects of the brain, activating deep structures that may block pain at a spinal level - similar to how opioid analgesics work. One of the key sites for love-induced analgesia is the nucleus accumbens, a key reward addiction centre for opioids, cocaine and other drugs of abuse. The region tells the brain that you really need to keep doing this. This tells us that you don't have to just rely on drugs for pain relief. People are feeling intense rewards without the side effects of drugs."

In a separate analysis, psychologists at the University of California studied 25 women and their boyfriends of more than six months, subjecting them to different levels of pain, using a sharp, prickling sensation.

The researchers discovered the women showed significantly reduced pain experience while holding their partner's hand.

But surprisingly, the photograph of their romantic partner provided equally effective pain relief, and both cases were far greater than when a stranger was involved.

(Agency)