Ethan Kross

The pain of a broken heart is real. The Los Angeles Times featured work by ISR researcher Ethan Kross in a Feb. 9 article about the physical toll of heartbreak. Emotional threats are much like physical ones, the article said, and can stir up the “fight or flight” response intended to protect us from harm. But instead of helping, this physiological response simply adds physical pains to the emotional hurt. The surging adrenaline brought on by a painful breakup, for example, can raise blood pressure, speed up breathing, and cause cramps, nausea, and other digestive problems. In 2011 Kross studied the brain activity of people who had recently been jilted, and found that the same portions of the brain were activated when participants were reminded of their exes and when they were subjected to an uncomfortable source of heat. “The experience of social rejection may actually have a bodily component to it,” Kross said. “It is more than just a metaphorical feeling of pain around a heartbreak.”