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The people who can give themselves goosebumps? Rare ability to produce them on command (but scientists have no idea how they do it)

March 27, 2018 8:07 PM
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Some people can make themselves produce goose bumps, and one researcher is working to understand why.

A doctor from Northeastern University is conducting an as-of-yet unpublished study explaining how people can control the seemingly involuntary sensation, the Atlantic reports.

The study draws on decades-old research that references individuals who can produce goose bumps on command.

Northeastern University researcher James Heathers has identified a handful of people able to produce goose bumps for his study.

Heathers assessed 32 people who control the ability to have goose bumps for the research, which has not yet been peer reviewed.

Several other individuals have reached out to him claiming they, too, can control the sensation.

One of the study participants told the Atlantic that he thought everyone controlled this ability.

When asked if he could do it during the interview, he did, saying: 'Do you see it? I thought everyone could do that.' Palejko said his brother possessed the ability, too.

Another person with the strange power told the Atlantic it takes concentration.

Bacon got in touch with Heathers after she found out about his research, and she told the Atlantic she uses the ability to ease headaches.

She said that when she produces goose bumps a tingling sensation begins on her head and then spreads through her body.

She shared that when she was a child she thought she possessed special gifts because of the strange ability.

Bacon is not the only one who has to focus to produce the sensation; one of the study participants told Heathers he had to try to convince himself his girlfriend was getting murdered in order to produce goose bumps.

Scientists think modern humans experience goose bumps because our ancestors kept warm and safe thanks to the sensation. A Northeastern University researcher is now trying to explain how some people can give themselves goose bumps on command (file photo)

Some said they had to conjure up an emotional reaction for their 'power' to work.

But for Palejko, it is not nearly as complicated - he can give himself goose bumps as easily as he can move a limb, he told the Atlantic.

However, he cannot do it back to back without letting some time pass in between.

Additionally, Mickal told the Atlantic, if she cannot give herself goose bumps an uneasy feeling washes over her, one akin to the sensation of not being able to sneeze when you need to.

Dr Timo Siepmann has studied the potential to induce goose bumps via 'a small electric shock,' the Atlantic reported.

Mickal said she can use the capability to warm herself up when she is chilly.

Researchers believe humans' ancestors benefited from goose bumps because when they got them their hair would become fluffy.

The sensation is caused by tiny muscles, controlled by the nervous system, pulling at hair follicles, according to the Atlantic.

The autonomic nervous system additionally manages ones' heartbeat, and Heathers compared the ability to create goose bumps to the ability to stop your heart.

The researcher became interested in the subject after reading old studies.

'I have a particular fondness for old journals and forgotten, abandoned articles,' he said.

He came upon a case study from 1938 that described a man, middle-aged, who could control the sensation.

Next, Heathers found an even older study, from 1902, that provided details about a student, 27, who could give himself goose bumps.

German and Austrian scientists provided footage of a man, 35, who could give himself goose bumps for a 2010 study.

This collection of research led Heathers to wonder about what causes some people to be able to control their goose bumps, and he took his quest to the internet.

He created an in depth survey that 32 people responded to, claiming they could control the sensation.


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