Going for a squirm, snacking on poo, living the naked mole rat life.
Oh, naked mole rats, what fresh new weirdness do you have for us today? It wasn’t enough that you look like wee spring rolls with teeth, or that you are nearly blind and navigate your ramifying, oxygen-poor burrows by scent. No, you are also apparently immune to cancer, have terrible, gimpy sperm, and, we learn today, feel no pain from acid burns because your nervous system is defective.
We’d heard things like this before, naked mole rats.
Artists and storytellers devote much time to showing the wondrous powers of love. And it seems that scientists are also attuned to studying love, and through such studies they’ve made an interesting discovery: love may shield you—at least partially—against pain because of the feelings of safety it provides.
It turns out self-flagellating medieval monks had it right (sort of): there’s nothing like good, old-fashioned, self-inflicted pain to cleanse your conscience, according to the latest research.
Researchers at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, led by psychologist Brock Bastian, wanted to see whether feelings of guilt diminish with pain. To test this, they split a group of 62 volunteers into three groups and asked two of the groups to write about a scenario in which they rejected another person; the control group was asked to write about a non-guilt-ridden encounter. After assessing their guilt via a questionnaire, they had some volunteers dip their hands in warm water and others to dip their hands in ice water. Finally, the researchers assessed the subjects’ guilt levels once again, as well as their self-reported pain levels. As New Scientist reports:
Participants who had written about rejecting another left their hands in the ice bucket for longer than those who had written about a normal interaction. They also reported more pain – regardless of how long their hand was in the ice. Crucially, participants who placed their hand in ice later had less than half as much guilt, as measured by the questionnaire, as those who had put their hand in warm water.
He says that self-punishment might relieve guilt by functioning as “a signal by which a transgressor shows remorse to his or her victim when there are no other less painful means available, such as giving a bunch of flowers…. In line with this view, excessive forms of self-punishment could be perceived as a consequence of unresolved guilt,” Nelissen adds. [New Scientist]
But please, don’t go flagellating yourself the next time you feel a twinge of guilt–a simple sorry might be a better option.
80beats: Hand Washing After a Decision Scrubs Away Those Lingering Doubts
Not Exactly Rocket Science: Power Breeds Hypocrisy: The Powerful Judge Others More Harshly but Cheat More Themselves
Not Exactly Rocket Science: Fake and Counterfeit Goods Promote Unethical Behavior
Not Exactly Rocket Science: When Is Attempted Murder More Acceptable Than Harming Someone by Accident?
DISCOVER: I Didn’t Sin—It Was My Brain
How much harm would a robot cause, if a robot could cause harm?
Ok, admittedly that’s not as good of a tongue twister as the woodchuck chucking wood, but it’s a legitimate question being posed by researchers in Slovenia. In Slovenia, where electronic gadgets smack you.
Borut Povše at the University of Ljubljana has been testing the punching ability of an industrial-strength robot, inflicting everything from mild to unbearable pain on six of his colleagues and measuring how much they said it hurt. Povše told New Scientist’s Paul Marks that robots need to learn their limits to safely work side by side with humans:
“Even robots designed to Asimov’s laws can collide with people. We are trying to make sure that when they do, the collision is not too powerful,” Povše says. “We are taking the first steps to defining the limits of the speed and acceleration of robots, and the ideal size and shape of the tools they use, so they can safely interact with humans.”
Clutching an injury does make it feel better, according to a study published in Current Biology, reducing the pain on average 64 percent. But only if the injured party is the one doing the clutching (insert your own self-touching joke here). It doesn’t work if someone else does it.
Study coauthor Marjolein Kammers explained to the Daily Mail what this means:
“Pain isn’t just the signals coming from the body to the brain, but it is also the way the brain processes those signals,” she said.
To test this, the Kammers and her team used a classical pain test called the thermal grill illusion, which causes pain without injuring someone. It creates a pain sensation by exploiting the brain’s natural interpretation of mixed signals.
The next time you stub your toe, bump your head, or otherwise hurt yourself, don’t feel guilty about belting out those four-letter words. A new study found that swearing when you’re injured actually increases your pain tolerance. This is reportedly the first study to provide evidence for the benefits of swearing, and it may explain why the practice has persisted for hundreds of years.
BBC tells us:
A study by Keele University researchers found volunteers who cursed at will could endure pain nearly 50% longer than civil-tongued peers….
He recruited 64 volunteers to take part and each individual was asked to submerge their hand in a tub of freezing water for as long as possible while repeating a swear word of their choice….
On average, the students could tolerate the pain for nearly two minutes when swearing compared with only one minute and 15 seconds when they refrained from using expletives.
Scientists hypothesize that swearing-as-pain-tolerance works by initiating the body’s fight-or-flight response, in which the hypothalamus signals the release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. The process increases aggression, dampens pain, and allows us to better deal with stresses like pain or fear.
It appears body art has hit a whole new level: A woman with a rare skin condition known as dermatographia has been using a blunt knitting needle to etch designs into her skin—and selling them for up to $4,500.
As a symptom of her condition, Ariana Page Russell’s skin swells up into welts at the slightest scratch. Dermatographia, which affects only five percent of the population, is apparently caused by the release of histamines by mast cells near the surface of the skin, once any pressure is applied. Within five minutes, the skin swells in a reaction similar to hives—but it doesn’t hurt, it just “feels a little warm.”
Your mom always told you that it’s the thought that counts. And when it comes to pain, scientists appear to have shown that intentions really do matter. Harvard researchers report that people experience more pain if they perceive that the pain is intentionally inflicted.
“When someone steps on your toe on purpose, it seems to hurt more than when the person does the same thing unintentionally. The physical parameters of the harm may not differ—your toe is flattened in both cases—but the psychological experience of pain is changed nonetheless,” the researchers report in Psychological Science [pdf].
The researchers enrolled 43 participants in a study in which they were each paired with partner. Little did they know that the partner was actually a researcher running the study. The participant was hooked up to a machine and told that the partner, located in a separate room, would control whether or not to deliver an electric shock through the machine. In some cases, however, the partner’s choice would be reversed by the machine. The participant could see what the partner had chosen—shock or no shock—and whether the machine would follow the choice or reverse it. Even though the participants always knew they were about to be shocked, they rated the intentional shocks as more painful than the unintentional ones—3.62 versus 3.00 on a 7-point scale.
Pharmaceutical companies, make room for this news: Art can be used as a painkiller too.
Researchers in Italy asked twelve men and women to judge 300 pieces of art, and rate it as ugly or beautiful. While the participants judged the art’s aesthetics, the researchers zapped them with a laser pulse.
While tales of patients murdering their medical care providers are very real and very tragic, they’re also rare. But a disturbing new study indicates that thoughts of killing doctors occur more frequently than we might think, particularly among patients who are in pain, undergoing physical rehabilitation, or seeking compensation for a disability.
New Scientist reports that psychiatrist David Fishbain and his colleagues at the University of Miami, Florida, surveyed around 800 physical rehabilitation patients and found that just over 1 in 20, or around 5 percent, admitted that they entertained thoughts of murdering their physician. In a control group of people not in treatment for any condition, around 2 percent reported having felt the desire to kill their doctor in the past.