Discrimination could make people feel more physical pain
Scientists say experiencing discrimination may alter pain response on a neurological level.
CORAL GABLES, FLORIDA — A study published in Nature Human Behavior suggests that discrimination can change how different ethnic groups perceive and respond to pain.
The University of Miami says scientists gave pain stimuli to the participants' arm, then gauged their pain via MRI.
Researchers learned that when the same pain is applied by a heating device, African Americans reported more pain than Hispanic or non-Hispanic white American participants.
Scientists found that two areas of the brain — the ventral striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex — responded to pain more strongly in African Americans.
Those brain areas have been linked to chronic pain."
Since stressful experiences are correlated to chronic pain later in life, the researchers
believe that stress from racial discrimination may cause increased pain sensitivity.
Yet data suggests that doctors tend to believe African Americans to be more pain tolerant, which might make them less inclined to alleviate black pain.
The research team writes in a statement: 'Understanding why these pain biases exist, therefore, is a key step toward ... eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in pain and its treatment.
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