Our preconceptions of how much pain we can tolerate vary from person to person, but we’ve only just discovered that there is a biological role to play in pain tolerance. According to a recent study,
Highly sensitive individuals had the least grey matter density in the bilateral precuneus, posterior cingulate cortex, posterior parietal cortex, and left primary somatosensory cortex.
This might not mean much at first glance, but its content affects you more than you realize. The density of grey matter, the substance most of the human brain is made of, heavily influences a person’s tolerance for pain.
The study begs the question: Could all the hurt we experienced in the past have been more tolerable had we been someone else? Someone else with more grey matter in their noggin? Do I just give up and submit to the possibility of getting hurt and feeling it more intensely than others? Maybe. But at least you can now justify your pain with science. Good news is possible even in complete disappointment, right?
Now I am not talking about heartbreaks and sensual experiences or anything of that sort; I’m talking good ol’ wrestling hurt. The kind that you get when you step on a nail and it breaks the skin, the kind you experience only when you are drunk and in a shouting match with the bouncer. But most importantly the kind that makes you cringe and say: That’ll hurt in the morning. Yeehah!
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It seems that pain tolerance has more to do with your brain’s grey matter than just your overall size and body build. A study was conducted by the lovely people at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., with the help of 116 volunteers, to prove this hypothesis on pain tolerance. The subjects were exposed to light pain while MRI’s were taken of their brain and its activity. It was found that those with a higher grey matter density in areas of the brain associated with internal thoughts and control of attention, were more resistant to pain than those with a lower grey matter density.
I guess the saying men are tougher than women, just does not apply in this instance. Finally people will understand why my girlfriend is so much tougher than me when it comes to actually going to the gym!
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So why exactly is this information useful? Well if you consider soldiers, for instance, and what they have to go through in the army, training and battles, we could potentially build a much stronger army and take over the world if we selectively breed and choose our soldiers. But really, there is some research that points to increasing grey matter density through practice and mindfulness meditation. So go for it; increase your pain tolerance and enjoy some meditation while you are at it. Otherwise, Cheers to World Domination!
Pain sensitivity is inversely related to regional grey matter density in the brain
Mindfulness Practice leads to increases in regional brain grey matter density
Shambhala Sun – How to do Mindfulness Meditation
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