• Question: if you are born with no connection to the part of your mind that acceses pain,can you feel yourself dieing?i saw a programme about a kid who bit his tounge off...ewww:(

    Asked by tinytardis13 to Cathal, Ciara, Emma, Michael, Sive on 19 Nov 2013.
    • Photo: Sive Finlay

      Sive Finlay answered on 19 Nov 2013:

      Hi tinytardis,

      Wow I’d never heard of that before! Biting off your own tongue is definitely not pleasant.
      There seems to be a couple of different reasons why some people are unable to feel pain; either because they are insensitive (can’t feel the pain) or indifferent (don’t have a normal response) to pain. Sometimes it’s caused by over-production of endorphins in the brain; all those happy hormones stop you from feeling pain. In other people it’s caused by mutations in the sodium channels in their nerve cells – when they don’t work properly then the nerves don’t send the correct electrical signals to the brain when a painful stimulus is felt. An inability to feel pain can be very dangerous because the person has no way of knowing when their body is being damaged – hence the danger of biting off the end of your own tongue.
      So there are people who can’t feel pain but I don’t know how that would affect them when they die. If they die because of a fatal injury or accident then we would expect a lot of pain to be involved so yes they probably wouldn’t feel that. But fatal injuries cause other feelings as well as pain- heavy blood loss might make you light headed for example or big releases of adrenaline would increase your heart rate so I guess people who can’t feel pain would still feel those other things. If you die of less dramatic causes then it’s not clear how much pain that might involve or indeed whether you can actually feel yourself dying in the first place so I don’t know if it would be any different for people who are unable to feel pain.
      There’s a few morbid thoughts for the morning!

    • Photo: Emma Cahill

      Emma Cahill answered on 19 Nov 2013:

      Hi there,
      Thats a great question. I’ll just add to what Sive said that yes you probably would be concsious of what is happening too. There have been studies on paralysed patients who techniqually dont “feel” anything, but they’re brains remain very active. So even if you could’nt feel pain, or anything at all, the awareness that the brain produces might still allow somebody to process what it happening.
      Hopefully this wont happen much though!