There’s no doubt when a newborn baby first feels hunger or gas pain. It’s pretty much immediately and their needy cries tell the story. But what about other discomforts?
A study done at the University of Southern California found that when it comes to freezing those tiny toes, babies take a little longer to feel it. Not that you’re going to forego those booties on a frosty day, but it’s interesting to note that scientists believe infants don’t fully feel the effects of low temperatures until their about two weeks old.
And there’s good reason to believe it. As the study’s lead author USC College professor David McKemy put it, “In the womb, when would we ever feel cold?”
Researchers have pinpointed the cold sensing protein as something called TRPM8.
It’s “expressed” in animals-including humans- about three or four days after birth.
The axons for the nerves going into the spinal cord, however, don’t finish growing until later.
Why are scientists studying this stuff? They believe that knowing exactly when and how we first feel cold can help treat people who suffer from certain conditions.
“If you want to understand conditions like cold allodynia, which is cold pain, you need to find exactly what are the targets,” McKemy said.
“If we understand the basic nuts and bolts of the molecules and neurons and how they detect pain normally,” McKemy said, “then perhaps we can figure out why we detect pain when we shouldn’t.”
Interestingly, it was found that TRPM8 allows us to sense both painful cold and the soothing cold of menthol-based creams. Why is that gum so minty fresh? Now you know.
It’s all about your neurons.
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