Tuesday, 16 December 2008
When threatened with something mildly hurtful, like an injection, my father often feigned fear and claimed that he felt pain more than other people (I know he was feigning, because he was given a DSC in the war, and you don't get those for good hand-writing).
I didn't inherit his valour gene, but I have borrowed his line about feeling pain more than other people from time to time.
Research at the University of Louisville in 2002 discovered that people with red hair are more sensitive to pain, and consequently need more anaesthetic during operations than other patients. In people with red hair, the cells that produce skin and hair pigment have a dysfunctional melanocortin-1 receptor. This dysfunction triggers the release of more of the hormone that stimulates these cells, but this hormone also stimulates a brain receptor related to pain sensitivity.
Research at the University of Edinburgh in 2005 discovered that redheaded women have a higher tolerance of pain and consequently require less anaesthetic. Normally the melanocortin-1 gene produces a protein that reduces the efficacy of opiate drugs, but without a functional gene, natural and artificial painkillers appear to induce a threefold stronger effect in redheaded women.
So there you are, it's official; redheaded people feel pain more than other people. Or less. This may explain my predilection for anaesthetic around 6pm. Or not.