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Archives a Century Ago
September 2003

A Case of Voluntary Erection of the Human Hair.

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Copyright 2003 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2003

Arch Dermatol. 2003;139(9):1117. doi:10.1001/archderm.139.9.1117

S. S. MAXWELL, (American Jour. Physiology, 1902, July.)

Cutis anserina, or "goose-flesh," is usually regarded as a reflex phenomenon caused by the contraction of the smooth muscle fibers attached to the hair follicles.

The case recorded is the first, so far as is known, of direct voluntary control over the arrectores pilorum. The subject was a young man of twenty-seven, a student, who became aware of this peculiarity at the age of twelve. He had a curvature of the spine, dating from his fifth year, and he also had an impairment of hearing, as well as being color-blind to red. He cannot, however, be classed as a neurotic. He can produce the condition of "goose-flesh" at will in from two to ten seconds from the instant of volition, and can cause it to disappear in a like time. It is seen on those parts of the body where it usually appears when the skin is exposed to cold, being especially prominent upon the hips and thighs, the back and arms. There is no change in color, except, perhaps, a very slight pallor. Where the hairs are comparatively large, as on the fore-arms, they can be seen to become partially erect in a very marked way. It is to be noted, also, that this subject has great control of his facial muscles, being able to move his scalp freely in various directions, as well as his ears; he also has much greater control of the muscles of his fingers and toes than the ordinary individual. These attributes were also possessed by the subject's father. One might be reminded of those persons who possess the power of quickening the heart-beat at will, but this patient is possessed of no such power.

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