Medical Definition of Horripilation

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Horripilation: Also known as Cutis anserina, a temporary local change in the skin when it becomes rougher due to erection of little muscles, as from cold, fear, or excitement. The chain of events leading to this skin change starts with a stimulus such as cold or fear. That stimulus causes a nerve discharge from the sympathetic nervous system, a portion of the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system. The nerve discharge causes contraction of little muscles called the arrectores pilorum (the hair erector muscles). Contraction of these muscles elevates the hair follicles above the rest of the skin. And it is these tiny elevations we perceive as goose bumps.

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Reviewed on 12/31/2018

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