16 November 2007

Those Clever Canadian Scientists

From "Science Now" (via Andrew Sullivan) comes this startling experiment performed by our death defying neighbors to the north:

Jeffrey Mogil of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and his colleagues noticed that male mice spent less time licking the site of a painful injection--indicating that they had less pain--when a scientist was present. To investigate whether it was the sight or smell of a human that caused the effect, the researchers acquired a promotional cardboard cutout of [Paris] Hilton from her television show The Simple Life ("A special order," says Mogil's collaborator Leigh MacIntyre).

As in humans, Paris's effect appears to be gender-specific. Male mice spent less time licking their wounds when fake Paris was in sight, but females showed no such effect, the researchers reported ... When the team put up a screen to block the rodents' view, the effect went away. Following a Paris Hilton encounter, male mice--but not females--also had lower-than-usual expression of a gene called c-fos in a part of the spinal cord that transmits pain signals to the brain, suggesting reduced neural activity in this pain pathway.

Mogil suspects the analgesic effect has something to do with stress.

I wish that I had made this up, but I am not that clever.

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