Skin colour changes during experimentally-induced sickness
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Skin colour may be an important cue to detect sickness in humans but how skin colour changes with acute sickness is currently unknown. To determine possible colour changes, 22 healthy Caucasian participants were injected twice, once with lipopolysaccharide (LPS, at a dose of 2 ng/kg body weight) and once with placebo (saline), in a randomised cross-over design study. Skin colour across 3 arm and 3 face locations was recorded spectrophotometrically over a period of 8 hours in terms of lightness (L∗), redness (a∗) and yellowness (b∗) in a manner that is consistent with human colour perception. In addition, carotenoid status was assessed as we predicted that a decrease it skin yellowness would reflect a drop in skin carotenoids. We found an early change in skin colouration 1-3 hours post LPS injection with facial skin becoming lighter and less red whilst arm skin become darker but also less red and less yellow. The LPS injection also caused a drop in plasma carotenoids from 3 hours onwards. However, the timing of the carotenoid changes was not consistent with the skin colour changes suggesting that other mechanisms, such as a reduction of blood perfusion, oxygenation or composition. This is the first experimental study characterising skin colour associated with acute illness, and shows that changes occur early in the development of the sickness response. Colour changes may serve as a cue to health, prompting actions from others in terms of care-giving or disease avoidance. Specific mechanisms underlying these colour changes require further investigation.
Henderson , A J , Lasselin , J , Lekander , M , Olsson , M J , Powis , S J , Axelsson , J & Perrett , D I 2017 , ' Skin colour changes during experimentally-induced sickness ' Brain, Behavior, and Immunity , vol 60 . DOI: 10.1016/j.bbi.2016.11.008
Brain, Behavior, and Immunity
© 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. This work has been made available online in accordance with the publisher’s policies. This is the author created, accepted version manuscript following peer review and may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work is available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2016.11.008
DescriptionThis project was supported by Swedish foundation for humanities and social sciences and a British Academy Wolfson Foundation Research Professorship grant. AH is supported by a studentship from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
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