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J Dermatol Sci. 2000 Feb;22(2):138-44.

Firm stroking of human skin leads to vasodilatation possibly due to the release of substance P.

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California Skin Research Institute, San Diego, CA 92128, USA.


Many animal species invest a large amount of time in grooming behavior without deriving any apparent benefit. In order for this behavior to have survived, however, it must confer some survival advantage. In seven of eight humans tested, an elevation in the skin's temperature was documented after massaging of the cheeks of the face. The elevation of the skin's temperature reached a plateau after about 40 min of massaging and was correlated to visible erythema. This effect could be inhibited by repeated pretreatment of the skin with topical capsaicin, a chemical that results in the release of substance P from peripheral nerve endings. Thus, it appears that the temperature elevation induced by stroking of human skin is controlled, at least in part, by release of the neurotransmitter, substance P. In conclusion, it appears that the release of neurotransmitter(s) may be the survival advantage that grooming confers to animals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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