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Being stroked: Why we love it


Scientists at the California Institute of Technology have discovered neurons under the skin that give humans and animals pleasure while being gently stroked.


John Moore

A new study has found why humans and animals enjoy being stroked.

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology found certain types of pleasure neurons on mice that are activated when pet.

The study helps to explain why both humans and animals take so much pleasure in being stroked, petted and rubbed gently.

"We've known a lot about the neurons that detect things that make us hurt or feel pain, but we've known much less about the identity of the neurons that make us feel good when they are stimulated," said David J. Anderson, study co-author, reported ANI.

To understand the phenomenon, the researchers looked at the furry skin on the back of the legs of mice.

They found that their legs contained neurons that responded to pleasurable touch but not to pain.

The neurons were activated by gentle touch as they are not covered by the fatty covering that other nerves that respond to pain have.

Oddly, the pleasure-seeking C-fibers only appear to exist in hairy skin, said ioL News.

The researchers found the fibers by using a special microscope under which the mouse was placed.

It was then prodded, poked, tickled and stroked, while its neurons were watched for activity.

"Massage-like stroking is a stimulus that, if were we to experience it, would feel good to us, but as scientists we can't just assume that because something feels good to us, it has to also feel good to an animal," said Anderson, reported ANI.

"So we then had to design an experiment to show that artificially activating just these neurons-without actually stroking the mouse-felt good to the mouse," he explained.

The findings were published in Nature.