Hairy or furry skin is hard-wired for petting and stroking sensations, creating intense pleasure when touched this way, a study finds.
The research, published in the latest issue of the journal Nature, helps to explain why pets love to be petted, and possibly why human body pleasure zones tend to be where multiple hair follicles exist.
The ultimate euphoria center, though, is in the brain.
"Scientists care about what feels good to animals, not just about things that feel bad, like painful stimuli," co-author David Anderson told Discovery News. "Both are important for understanding how the brain interprets the world around us and guides our behavior."
Anderson directs the David Anderson Research Group at the California Institute of Technology. He and his colleagues focused their analysis on mice, which often serve as models for other mammals.
The scientists used high tech imaging to monitor how neurons were activated when the mice were touched in various innocuous ways. A custom-designed brush and other methods were used to poke, pinch and stroke the mice.