If You’re A Wuss When It Comes To Pain, You Might Be Part-Neanderthal, Study Says


Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
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A study published Tuesday found individuals who carry Neanderthal gene variants may be far more sensitive to pain.

Researchers focused their work on the SCN9A gene, which assists in protein development related to how sodium is shuffled into cells, according to the study published in the peer-reviewed journal, Communications Biology. People with one of three variants to this gene are more sensitive to pain.

“In 2020, another group of researchers studied people of European ancestry and linked these Neanderthal gene variants to increased pain sensitivity,” lead author Pierre Faux told LiveScience. “We extend these findings by studying Latin Americans and showing that these Neanderthal genetic variants are much more common in people with Native American ancestry. We also show the type of pain these variants affect, which wasn’t known before.”

But it’s not all types of pain that Neanderthal relatives are more sensitive to: pain caused by heat or pressure appears to be the same as in humans without the variant. The specific pain heightened in this context relates to that which stems from being poked with a sharp object.

“We know that modern humans and Neanderthals interbred something like 50,000 to 70,000 years ago, and that modern humans first crossed over from Eurasia into the Americas by 15- to 20,000 years ago,” Faux continued. “The high frequency of the Neanderthal variants in people with Native American ancestry could potentially be explained by a scenario where the Neanderthals carrying these variants happened to breed with the modern humans who eventually migrated into the Americas.” (RELATED: 86,000-Year-Old Human Remains Uncovered, Challenging Dominant Migration Hypothesis)

The reaction to pain was hypothesized as an evolutionary change, or a side effect of growing a sensitivity for cold. More research will likely be required to figure out the truth.