You can really smell fear claim scientists who also claim being terrified is contagious

(Telegraph)   The smell of fear really does exist claim scientists in a study that also suggests that it is contagious.Researchers have shown that we subconsciously detect whether others are scared by picking up chemicals they release from their bodies.They believe the signals can be catching and spread around a group.

By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent
Published: 6:19PM BST 02 Jul 2009

The smell of fear can infect others claim scientists

The smell of fear can infect others claim scientists Photo: (Getty Images)

Researchers have shown that we subconsciously detect whether others are scared by picking up chemicals they release from their bodies.

They believe the signals can be catching and spread around a group.

Dr Bettina Pause and colleagues at the University of Dusseldorf in Germany put cotton pads under the armpits of 49 student volunteers before they were due to start a university exam.

She also collected sweat from the same group of students as they worked out on exercise bikes.

Another group of 28 volunteer students were then asked to sniff the cotton pads while their brains were monitored with an MRI scanner.

None were able to tell the difference between ‘panic sweat’ and ‘exercise sweat’ but the brain scans told a different story, reports the science journal PLoS One.

When sniffing ‘panic sweat’, the regions of the brain that handle emotional and social signals became far more active. Parts of the brain involved in empathy also lit up.

The researchers believe fear and anxiety trigger the release of a chemical that makes other people empathise.

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