Examination Jitters - Science Proves It's Contagious!

by Tanya Thomas on Jul 7 2009 10:16 AM

What students have known for years, science has backed now! A recent study has fond that if thinking about exams sends shivers down a student's spine, his companions may catch on to the 'exam fever' infection too. More precisely, they can 'smell fear' and empathize with their friends.

The study, conducted by Dr Bettina Pause and colleagues at the University of Dusseldorf in Germany, suggests that people subconsciously detect whether others are scared by picking up chemicals they release from their bodies.

Researchers believe the signals can be contagious and can spread around a group, reports New Scientist.or the study, researchers put cotton pads under the armpits of 49 student volunteers before they were due to start a university exam, reports the Telegraph.

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

They asked another group of 28 volunteer students 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.

When sniffing 'panic sweat', the researchers found that 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 reckon that fear and anxiety trigger the release of a chemical that makes other people empathise.

The study has been published in the science journal PLoS One.