Rowers' high: behavioural synchrony is correlated with elevated pain thresholds

Emma E. A. Cohen, Robin Ejsmond-Frey, Nicola Knight, R. I. M. Dunbar


Physical exercise is known to stimulate the release of endorphins, creating a mild sense of euphoria that has rewarding properties. Using pain tolerance (a conventional non-invasive assay for endorphin release), we show that synchronized training in a college rowing crew creates a heightened endorphin surge compared with a similar training regime carried out alone. This heightened effect from synchronized activity may explain the sense of euphoria experienced during other social activities (such as laughter, music-making and dancing) that are involved in social bonding in humans and possibly other vertebrates.


  • Nicola Knight died in June 2009 during the final revisions to this paper.

    • Received August 16, 2009.
    • Accepted August 21, 2009.
View Full Text