Redheads Don’t Feel Pain
New research reveals more clues as to why our ginger brethren seem, well, just a little bit different. Specifically, redheads appear to feel pain differently. While redheads are more sensitive to the cold, they appear to have a higher pain threshold than the rest of us. A recent study showed that redheads were less sensitive to painful stinging sensations from pinpricks or eating extremely hot foods.
Capsaicin, the active substance in chili, was injected under the research subjects’ skin and their pain responses were measured. To the surprise of the researchers, redheads reacted less strongly to this horrible, painful-sounding experiment.
Among the other notable differences between redheads: they have a much higher tolerance for injected anesthetics, such as Novocain, and are thus less likely to go to the dentist; their bodies might also be less adept at synthesizing Vitamin D, making them more prone to illness, though it could just be that redheads have to keep their lily white skin far away from sunlight.
The genetic differences that produce these changes aren’t well understood. It’s thought to involve the receptor gene MC1R, a gene that codes for melanin in most people. Redheads have a version of the gene that doesn’t produce melanin. MC1R, along with MC2R, MC3R, and MC4R, is also involved in brain function. Though its mechanism and function is not well understood, it offers a glimpse into the fundamental, genetic differences between the gingers and everyone else.
By Kelly Bourdet