Saturday, November 12, 2011

What causes 'the creeps' when you get scared?

It rains and thunders. Tunes in a movie werewolves and vampires. Suddenly, you hear a noise you can not explain and a shiver runs down your back. There's a blackout and all your skin bristles. You're not being stalked by a ghost, but rather your body is reacting to an emotion and not an apparition.

The science of panic can feel like something supernatural when the hair on your neck stands on end and your body is covered with goose bumps, but Researchers say it's the opposite. Our response to the fear goes back to the beginning of mankind when our ancestors had to defend themselves from predators and other threats.

This happens experts call it the "fight or flight instinct", which provokes strong emotions in a physical reaction the nervous system. The phenomenon was first described in 1915 by Walter B. Cannon, who theorized that the perceived risk animal stress response occurs, which causes rapid heartbeat, dilated pupils and piloerection (hair standing on end). Today, some scientists think Cannon's explanation is very simplistic, but it was unfounded.

Fear stimulates your brain and causes the release of adrenaline and other hormones throughout the body. This adrenaline rush causes sweaty palms and racing heartbeat. It is also responsible for goosebumps and the hairs stand on end. The goose bumps is the result of a reflex that causes the muscles at the base of each follicle to shrink. Each contraction creates a vacuum on the surface of the skin, which causes the area around it stand out. These contractions force the hair up. Fear is not what causes goosebumps.

Research has shown that piloerection may also be brought by a variety of strong emotions, like surprise or enthusiasm, or even by just listening to a song. People often experience goosebumps during emotional situations, such as marching down the aisle, to hear the national anthem after a sports victory or watching horror movies. It also happens that people experience goosebumps many years after a significant event, the very thought the emotions experienced, perhaps to hear a romantic song that is danced with someone special.

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