The haunts of Halloween are upon us and with them come the physiological phenomena of goosebumps and chills. One might ask, what is the reason for these body processes when it comes to observing perpetrating paranormals that either truly exist or only exist truly in our minds?
If you have ever felt a sudden chill and then looked down at your arm, you may have notice thousands of tiny little “bumps.” These little bumps are benignly yet misleadingly called goosebumps. Goosebumps, also called goose flesh, goose pimples, or medically speaking “cutis anserine,” are the bumps on a person's skin at the base of body hairs which may involuntarily develop when a person is cold or experiences strong emotions such as fear, nostalgia, pleasure, awe or sexual arousal.
Named for the likeness of the skin of a goose after its feathers have been plucked, (when’s the last time you plucked a goose?) the formation of goose pimples is evolutionary. Its function was to raise the body's hair, making the ancestor appear larger and to scare off predators.
As the body prepares itself for either fighting or running (“fight or flight response”), the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) floods the blood with adrenaline (epinephrine), a hormone that speeds up your heart rate, metabolism and body temperature in the presence of extreme stress. The SNS also causes a reflex called piloerection, which makes the muscles attached to the base of each hair follicle contract and force the hair up.
It may be fair to say that this time of year can bring out not only the candy but the goosebumps, especially if you are someone who may suffer from “samhainophobia,” which is the irrational fear of Halloween. Samhain is an ancient Pagan festival of the dead who are said to walk the earth one night of the year. Today, Samhain is called Halloween.
So if you are someone that likes the hair-raising experiences that cause the things that go “bump on your arms and legs,” enjoy Halloween for a spell. If not, you may want to retreat from the trick or treaters until November. And, if you are a goose you may want to wait until the holidays are completely over, so not to be cooked!
Contributor and Springfield resident Annie Linton, M.Ed, is a Pediatric Clinical Exercise Physiologist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, owner and program director for GrowingStronger, www.growingstronger.org. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.