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Sunburn in the shower – Neuroscience nugget No. 15

By David Butler Education for all, Neuroscience Nuggets 29 Sep 2015

As an educational strategy, providing contrasting information is a known and effective way to promote optimal learning. In the often delicate discussion about central sensitisation, providing some knowledge about peripheral sensitisation allows a contrast with the more complex features of central sensitisation. Plus it probably helps that you can demonstrate to the learner that you know about peripheral sensitisation and don’t think everything is in the head!

The nugget might go something like this.

“Remember back to when you were once sunburnt…take a moment to reflect.…. and then remember what happened when you got into the shower…….. and how much even a warm shower hurt…… much of this is due to sensitive nerve endings in your skin – the nerve endings  become sensitive to heat and even the pressure from the water. This is peripheral sensitisation: it’s very common and it’s due to changes in your body tissues. Another example (remember to give two examples when contrasting if you can) is when you have a sore throat and then swallowing hurts – again peripheral sensitisation – a great protective process.

Peripheral sensitisation  usually behaves quite simply. Notice  how your sunburn hurts the moment you get in the shower but settles when you get out, or when your throat is sore, multiple coughs make each cough a little worse. Symptoms are usually a bit more predictable when you contrast them with the features of central sensitisation……………..


“Neuroscience nuggets”

Neuroscience nuggets are information nuggets – short pieces of biological information based on statement or metaphor that can be used as educational analgesia, explicit education or part of overall story telling. We have collected over 100 of these as part of a pain story telling taxonomy. We will release the taxonomy in “Explain Pain Supercharged” by Moseley and Butler in 2016.

There are plenty of NOI courses coming up before Christmas, all of them full of nuggets. Check them out on


  1. Hi David,
    Thank you for this nugget. I’ve stolen it and have used it several times already
    London 😁

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