This Morning: Mother of boy with epilepsy begs for help
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Goosebumps are the result of tiny muscular reflexes that make the hairs on the skin stand on end in a bid to trap heat. They are, for the most part benign. Conflicting evidence shows the reflex is as indicative of good health, as it is of bad health.
The primary purpose of goosebumps is to aid the body in conversing heat when it’s exposed to cold temperatures.
According to Harvard Health, it may do this in several ways; in a similar way to the larger muscles in the body, it may contract “the muscles in the skin, called arrectores pilorum”, thereby generating heat.
Conversely, it may “raise hair follicles”, causing the pores on the skin to close.
Thirdly, the hairs standing up on the skin may trap a layer of air near the epidermis, holding on to body heat.
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In rare instances, however, goosebumps may signal disease in the brain.
A body of research shows that goosebumps can occur in conjunction with seizures in those who suffer from temporal lobe epilepsy.
In this condition, the seizure starts in the part of the brain that controls emotions.
It is said that those who experience goosebumps as a result of the seizure may also experience confusion.
Harvard Health explains: “Though rare, goosebumps can be a sign of a seizure disorder called temporal lobe epilepsy, a disorder of the sympathetic nervous system, or other brain disorders.”
Alongside brain disorders, piloerection can be triggered by a range of emotions, including fear, shock, anxiety or inspiration.
Other causes include the sympathetic nervous system, which comprises a series of autonomous reflexes that are activated when danger is sensed.
These reflexes can also activate sweat glands and accelerate heart rates in the face of danger.
When the brain perceives a situation to be dangerous, the sympathetic nervous system will order the hairs to stand, in a similar way to how cats respond to threatening.
Harvard Health claims the reflex is also widely associated with substance withdrawal.
“They are also common during opiate withdrawal,” explains the health body.
“In fact, one explanation for the origin of the expression ‘quitting cold turkey’ is that goosebumps that develop during withdrawal from heroin mimic cold turkey flesh.”
Some researchers have challenged the prevailing notion that goosebumps are solely associated with bad experiences, however.
One study conducted at Reading and Leeds musical festivals determined that goosebumps may be a sign of a high-achieving and healthy life.
Researchers found that people who experienced goosebumps were more likely to foster strong relationships with others, achieve higher academic feats and be in better health.
Robin Murphy, a researcher at Oxford Univesity, said: “The results of the study are the first to show the personality traits that characterise people who experience goosebumps.
“The experience also suggests that being truly connected with live entertainment and getting goosebumps have an impact on our overall sense of wellbeing and mood.”
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