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Is there a possible maximum pain/heat/cold threshold?

  1. Jun 6, 2007 #1


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    Gold Member

    There are only so many neurons and so much "firing intensity" that neurons can fire. So the question is - is there a possible maximum threshold of pain or heat? This reminds me of Weber's Law. But Weber's Law still would predict no maximum intensity of perception - but logically there should be one.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 6, 2007 #2

    jim mcnamara

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    Point 1 -
    The palp of your index finger is clobbered with sensory nerve endings, the nape of your neck has very few. The point is that there areas areas of the body that generate a lot less input sensory-wise.

    Point 2 -
    How input from sensory nerves gets translated into something depends not so much on the input but the processing system -
    A. how many input points are involved
    B. how they are routed
    C. how they get interpreted, ie, the brain can turn off pain input in the medulla oblongata - think aspirin or NSAIDS, or inebriation.

    There is also the phenomenon of pain threshold. Some people do not feel very much pain - probably due to something in the "C" category above.

    Biology is not like Math. There are no theorems, it's very messy down inside those bags of chemicals. Physical laws apply, of course, but in terms of systems analysis: cellular systems are leaky as hell, and subject to all kinds of varying responses to the exact same set of stimuli.

    For example, I have virtually no sense of smell. An old man puked in a restuarant we were eating in - and everybody turned green from the smell, including the staff guy trying to clean it up. I took the mop, cleaned it up.
    No problem, everyone else had cleared out of the area.

    The point is my sense of smell is shut off. Inputs of all kinds - pain, heat/cold, smell, vision, can all be limited in some way. Or exaggerated.
    It is not an absolute value thing.
  4. Jun 7, 2007 #3
    (I haven't read about this myself; it's something I heard from someone else, so I have no idea if it's true or not. But I trust the person who told me this as they are very learned).

    In older days when torture was still in practice (or rather: when it was publicly admitted to be in practice :rolleyes:), a "skilled" torturer knew how to keep the person being tortured conscious. That is: people would often pass out from the extreme pain/terror/stress, making the whole process pointless. So torturers learned not to take the torture to a level so extreme that person loses consciousness.

    If this is true, it could be seen as a "maximum pain" type-deal in the brain, seeing as it would be impossible to inflict further pain on an individual that's no longer conscious and processing pain signals.
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2007
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