Goosebumps have often been associated with fear, excitement, or cold temperatures. However, it is a perplexing phenomenon when dead bodies exhibit goosebumps. So, why does this happen?
Goosebumps occur when tiny muscles, attached to hair follicles, contract due to certain stimuli such as cold or fear. These contractions make the hair follicles stand up, causing bumps on the skin. In living beings, these muscles are controlled by the sympathetic nervous system, which responds to various emotions and environmental factors.
When a person dies, the sympathetic nervous system ceases to function. Despite this, dead bodies can still exhibit goosebumps. This is because goosebumps can actually be triggered by a reflex called "piloerection," which can take place even without neural control. In this case, piloerection occurs as a result of the muscles contracting due to changes in temperature or due to rigor mortis, the stiffening of the body after death caused by chemical reactions in the muscles.
Interestingly, the occurrence of goosebumps on dead bodies has been used by forensic scientists and pathologists to estimate the time of death. This is because the appearance and disappearance of postmortem goosebumps can indicate the stages of decomposition. In the early stages, goosebumps are visible, but they disappear as decomposition progresses.
In conclusion, while the sympathetic nervous system plays a role in controlling goosebumps in living beings, dead bodies can still exhibit this phenomenon due to reflexes triggered by external factors or due to the natural processes of decomposition. Goosebumps on dead bodies have proven to be useful for time of death estimation in forensics.