Without our brain, we can’t perceive pain!
The pain center in our brain is a part of the cerebral cortex called the primary somatosensory cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for processing information from your senses, including touch, pressure, temperature, and pain.
Research has shown that the pain center of the brain is less active when people distract themselves. As a result, when distracted from pain, they feel like their pain is less intense.
In one study, the scientists recorded the brains of two groups of people. In the first group, the participants were simply asked to touch something hot. In the second group, the participants were asked to touch something hot AND think of a pleasant memory while doing it to distract themselves. Both groups were given the same hot temperature, but the distracted group felt the pain from it only half as strong!
You can see this effect in the two pictures with the red bar above: When attention is focused on the pain, the pain center becomes highly activated. Yet with a distraction, the pain center only gets activated a little bit.
Source: Bushnell et al., 1999