London: It's what songwriters have been saying for years, and now scientists agree — love really does hurt.

But what the ballads don't tell us is that a simple dose of paracetamol could help ease the pain of a broken heart.

The rather prosaic cure emerged in a study by neuroscientists which found that emotional pain is processed in the same area of the brain as physical pain.

They also discovered that hurt feelings —such as being dumped by a partner — can respond to painkillers.

In a three-week trial at the University of California, 62 people were told to take either Tylenol — the American name for paracetamol — or a placebo and then record how they felt every night.

The study found those who took 1,000mg of the painkiller, or around two tablets, showed a "significant reduction in hurt feelings" compared to those taking the placebo.

While the findings could help develop treatment for bereavement, for example, Dr Naomi Eisenberger, an assistant professor of social psychology said we should not start taking painkillers after a traumatic experience.

Emotional pain is probably a healthy response which tells us not to repeat the behaviour, she said, and dulling it could impair recovery.