What is a fate as bad as death? Many contemporary and ancient societies considered banishment at least equal. After all, in the past, estrangement from family or friends, along with the corresponding exile away from the campfire or town gates, meant literally getting thrown to the wolves. Not surprisingly, our brains are wired with circuitry so that we can scrupulously avoid such fates, whether that means expulsion to the desert as in the Biblical tale of Hagar and Ishmael or the heartbreak of not getting that long-awaited invitation to the high school prom. The neurological wiring that makes us feel pain, new research suggests, also means that a common painkiller could ease the sting.
One brain area in question resides about an inch behind your forehead. Called the anterior cingulate cortex, it serves as one of the brain’s control centers for that “why me?” feeling when you get picked last for the dodgeball game.