Love can shield people from pain by invoking feelings of safety and reassurance, a new study has shown.
Tests on 17 women, who were in long-term relationships, found that they were less affected by stinging sensations while looking at pictures of their partners.
But their levels of discomfort actually increased when they were staring at images of spiders, objects or strangers.
The findings could help to pinpoint how emotions act on different areas of the brain and how uncomfortable feelings can be dealt with.
"On a practical level if you are someone enduring pain or going in for a painful procedure bringing a loved one with you or brining a picture of a loved one with you may reduce the pain of the experience," the Daily Mail quoted the study's lead author Naomi Eisenberger as telling the Toronto Star.
The study is the first time that scientists have been unable to find the area of the brain that is responsible for the feelings.
Researchers used MRIs to monitor the women's brains while administering stinging shocks to their body.
The women stared at pictures varying from their partner, strangers, or solid objects. They were then given a 20-point scale to use to rate their pain after each shock.
The pain scores were significantly lower for the women when they were looking at a picture of their partner.
The researchers discovered activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex which is associated with a feeling of safety.
Researchers also discovered that the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, an area responsible for stress response, was less active when the women were looking at the photos of their other halves.
Eisenberger said that it could be argued that people who have been in their relationship longer may view their partner as a stronger cue for safety.
The study has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.