There may be a very good reason why people clutch a painful area of their body after receiving an injury, according to a study. Touching the affected area allows a picture of the body to form in the brain, says a study in Current Biology.
Researchers at University College London (UCL) found that the way the body is represented in the brain is key to reducing perceptions of acute pain. But it does not work if someone else touches the injury, they say.
Scientists from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL studied the effects of self-touch in people who were made to feel pain using an experimental model called the Thermal Grill Illusion (TGI).
Healthy volunteers were asked to put their index and ring fingers in warm water and their middle finger in cold water. This generates a feeling that the middle finger is painfully hot, explains the study.