Cochlear SGN neurons elevate pain thresholds in response to music.
Dunbar RIM., Pearce E., Tarr B., Makdani A., Bamford J., Smith S., McGlone F.
The C-tactile (CLTM) peripheral nervous system is involved in social bonding in primates and humans through its capacity to trigger the brain's endorphin system. Since the mammalian cochlea has an unusually high density of similar neurons (type-II spiral ganglion neurons, SGNs), we hypothesise that their function may have been exploited for social bonding by co-opting head movements in response to music and other rhythmic movements of the head in social contexts. Music provides one of many cultural behavioural mechanisms for 'virtual grooming' in that it is used to trigger the endorphin system with many people simultaneously so as to bond both dyadic relationships and large groups. Changes in pain threshold across an activity are a convenient proxy assay for endorphin uptake in the brain, and we use this, in two experiments, to show that pain thresholds are higher when nodding the head than when sitting still.