Among a small number of related families from northern Pakistan, some individuals never feel pain in any part of their bodies. Scientists studying six such children found that by the age of 4, they all had injuries to the lips or tongue from repeatedly biting themselves. Bruises, cuts and broken bones were common, though fractures were diagnosed only long after the fact, when weird, painless limping or the inability to use a limb called attention to the injury. Tests showed that the pain-free children perceived sensations of warm and cold, tickling and pressure. They could feel the prick of a needle, but it didn’t hurt. Two had been scalded — painlessly — by hot liquids. And one boy who performed street theater by putting knives through his arms and walking on hot coals died after jumping off a roof on his 14th birthday.
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