Giving benefits both giver and receiver

November 11th, 2011 - 4:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Nov 11 (IANS) Giving support to a loved one does not only benefit the receiver — but also the giver.

“When people talk about the ways in which social support is good for our health, they typically assume that the benefits of social support come from the support we receive from others,” senior study co-author Naomi Eisenberger said.

“But it now seems likely that some of the health benefits of social support actually come from the support we provide to others,” added Eisenberger, assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, the journal Psychosomatic Medicine reports.

Eisenberger and psychology graduate student Tristen Inagaki studied 20 young heterosexual couples in good relationships at the university’s Brain Mapping Centre, according to a varsity statement.

The 20 women underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans while their boyfriends were just outside the scanner receiving painful electric shocks.

At times, the women could provide support by holding the arm of their boyfriends while at other times they had to watch their boyfriends receive shocks without being able to provide support (each woman instead held a squeeze-ball).

At still other times, the boyfriends did not receive a shock, and the women could either touch or not touch them.

Scientists found that when women supported boyfriends in pain, they showed increased activity in the ventral striatum and septal area.

“The ventral striatum, is typically active in response to simple rewards like chocolate, sex and money,” Eisenberger said.

The more reward-related neural (brain activity) activity these women showed, the more connected they reported feeling with their boyfriends while providing support.

“The fact that support-giving also activates this region suggests that support-giving may be processed by the brain as a very basic type of rewarding experience,” she concluded.

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