The Loh Down On Science

Mouse Grimace

Do mice freak you out?  Well, how do you think they feel?!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Meet pain researcher Jeffrey Mogil, from McGill University.  His laboratory staff were measuring the pain responses of mice to drug injections.  How?  By watching their facial expressions, of course!  The so-called Mouse Grimace Scale gauges pain level based on the degree of squeezed eyes, bulgy cheeks, and more.  

In the process, they noticed something odd.  Whenever men conducted the tests?  Stress hormones in the rodents' blood spiked.  And yet they showed less pain.  Their reactions were muted compared to when they were tested by women. 

Looks like the mere presence of men – but not women – stresses mice out.  This leads to stress-induced analgesia.  The little fellas literally go numb with fear!  And this affects the results of lab tests.  Uh oh.

Why would mice fear only men?  It’s something about their smell.  A guy's stinky T-shirt sparked the same reaction in the little critters.

As it should!  My pain grimace is off the charts! 

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The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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