A group of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found that ancient humans had a low pain threshold. This was reported on Friday by the journal Current Biology.
It is believed that at least 40% of the Neanderthal genome is distributed among modern humans, while the proportion of Neanderthal genes in one person of non-African descent is more than 2%.
Scientists analyzed data from a large-scale population study conducted in the UK. They compared how carriers of the Neanderthal and human versions of SCN9A feel pain using data collected from the UK Biobank project. According to previous information, the degree of pain perception among participants depended on age: the older they were, the more pain they experienced.
But it turned out that people who inherited this gene from Neanderthals actually felt more pain than carriers of the human species SCN9A. On average, they complained of different types of pain sensations 7% more often than peers with a different version of the gene, and they quickly identified the source of pain.
In the near future, scientists want to understand why Neanderthals had such a sensitivity and what role it played in how they adapted to life in glacial conditions. In addition, they want to find out whether this feature played any role in the fact that the Neanderthals became extinct after the first Homo sapiens entered Europe.