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Scientists Can't Explain Hanger Reflex Behind Viral Trend

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Scientists Can't Explain Hanger Reflex Behind Viral Trend

A TikTok trend, which involves putting a hanger on your head to test the ‘hanger reflex’, is leaving people feeling freaked out.

The viral trend involves grabbing a clothes hanger, opening it up a bit and then popping it around your head. The end result looks pretty weird, but more than that it actually has a pretty weird effect on most of those who have tried it. 

In the clips, people can be seen dutifully putting the hangers on before their head slowly begins to move from the side.

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And this isn’t just some bizarre TikTok trend that’s come from nowhere, the phenomenon was noted in a study in 1991 and again in 2015 in a study titled: Rate of Hanger Reflex Occurrence: Unexpected Head Rotation on Fronto-temporal Head Compression.

The 2015 study’s authors wrote: “When the head is encircled with a wire clothes hanger and the unilateral fronto-temporal region is compressed, the head rotates unexpectedly. As the mechanism is unclear, however, we have temporarily named this phenomenon as the ‘hanger reflex’.”

A diagram on how the hanger should be placed from the 2015 study. Credit: Neurol Med Chir (Tokyo)
A diagram on how the hanger should be placed from the 2015 study. Credit: Neurol Med Chir (Tokyo)
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The study used 120 adults - split 50/50 men and women - aged 19 to 65 and put a hanger over the fronto-temporal regions on both sides of the head one after another. The researchers discovered that a whopping 95.8 percent of those who took part had the sensation of head rotation. 

The study went on: “The incident rate of the hanger reflex was remarkably high and most likely represents a prevalent phenomenon in humans. The mechanism underlying the reflex remains unknown.”

The study’s authors suggested further research should be carried out into what causes ‘hanger reflex’ as it could be used to treat cervical dystonia - a painful condition in which a person’s neck muscles contract involuntarily and move the head to the side. 

The hanger reflex trend has gone viral on TikTok. Credit: Alamy
The hanger reflex trend has gone viral on TikTok. Credit: Alamy
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In 2020 another study was carried out in which researchers suggested it was ‘the application of a shearing force on the skin is thought to be the cause of this phenomenon’ but as yet haven't yet been able to definitively prove what causes it.

While in 2014, a group of scientists even created a specially designed device that could be worn on the head, similar to a hat, but then exert pressure on various different points to see which specific area it was that triggered the rotation - they discovered that it was the anterior and posterior temporal regions that produced the best response from participants.

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]  

Featured Image Credit: @GOC_Wrestling/@LizKatzOfficial/Twitter

Topics: News, TikTok, Weird

Claire Reid
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