Scream science
March 13, 2019 5:46 PM   Subscribe

You've been really helpful with my scream-related research here and here. Now I'm trying to learn more about the physiology and neurology of screaming, and I'm also trying to figure out how I can be hooked up to science when I scream. Below the fold!

I'd love to know in scientific detail more about how it changes our minds and bodies to scream, to hear a scream, and what factors make it more or less impactful. As well as pretty much anything else I can find that studies screaming scientifically. (This article about heating coffee with screams is cool. No idea if it's accurate, but it's an example.)

I'm in touch with Gregory Whitehead of the Sceamscape studies, and I've emailed David Poeppel, whose lab did the studies about screaming and the amygdala. No response from him. I've read Margee Kerr's book Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear.

Finally, my writing involves a lot of personal experience. As such I think it'd be awesome to find out somehow how screaming changes my body in particular. My dream scenario is to get a scientist to wire me up and look at my brain activity while screaming. Naturally, I have no idea how to make this happen. I do live a stone's throw from Virginia Tech, but, unsurprisingly, no mention of this was made on the neuroscience page or faculty bios. I'm not even sure what branch of science would be the best for this. I appreciate ideas for how to make my dream happen, especially ideas not involving money.
posted by mermaidcafe to Science & Nature (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There's some legit science behind the notion that swearing increases your tolerance for pain. Reading your post, I wondered if that little release one gets from screaming has a similar result. When Mythbusters did the experiment, they used a pretty common way to generate pain without a severe risk of bodily damage, which is immersing one's hand or foot in ice water, and pull your hand out when the pain gets too great to stand, and check the time. Then repeat while screaming your heart out. If you can keep your hand in the ice water for longer with the screaming, you have a positive result.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:48 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]

There is a lot of research about screaming behavior in non-human primates, and theories of what it might mean for us human-type primates.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 3:01 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]

Can you give a bit more information about what your goals are with learning about neuroscience and screaming, and with having a direct experience with being measured by research equipment while screaming? E.g., is this for a writing project, for personal curiosity, for some other form of creative project, etc.
posted by biogeo at 12:35 PM on March 14

@Biogeo: Yes, this is for a writing project. I'm writing a collection of essays and one of them focuses on screaming. I'm talking about screaming from a variety of perspectives, and I'd love to be able to include a more research-based one as well.
posted by mermaidcafe at 3:49 PM on March 14

Check your memail.
posted by biogeo at 5:23 PM on March 14

David Poeppel is supremely busy these days, as he is managing two jobs on two different continents, so don't take it personally that he hasn't gotten back to you. If I were you, I would contact Luc Arnal, who is the first author on the screaming study and was the postdoc carrying out the brunt of the research. I think you would have more luck getting in contact with Luc than with David.

By the way, David was one of my professors when I was at NYU, and I know one of his current postdocs very well. My friend is not an author on the screaming paper, but has worked with David for a long time and is an expert on the auditory system. If you want my friend's contact, memail me.

My dream scenario is to get a scientist to wire me up and look at my brain activity while screaming.

In that case, your best bet is to find out whether any of the study authors are doing follow-up work, and volunteer to be a subject in the study. Research labs must pay lots of money to use a scanner (something like $500/hr), so researchers cannot just scan people willy-nilly. If you were a subject in an experiment, though, the researchers could collect data from you and you would get a picture of your brain at the end.

The other important thing is: brain activity must always be analyzed with respect to a control condition. It doesn't make sense to just measure your brain activity while you are screaming, because the entire brain is active all the time, keeping you alive and conscious! Instead, what you want is the brain activity while you're screaming, compared to brain activity when you're not screaming. But, what does "not screaming" mean? Does it mean staying silent? Does it mean speaking? Does it mean speaking with a neutral tone? So, any brain measurements must take place with a specific control condition in mind.

Good luck, and feel free to memail me.
posted by tickingclock at 11:06 AM on March 19

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