What is the hanger reflex? Is it real?

People are obsessed with the “hanger reflex,” our body’s involuntary response to having a stretched hanger placed on our heads. Yeah, it’s weird. 

The popular challenge has people placing wire coat hangers on their heads to trigger the reflex, which causes them to turn their heads. On TikTok, the hashtag #hangerchallenge has over 31.9 million views. 

People like @hairilpotter are doing the challenge and pretty much freaking themselves out. They can’t believe their heads move involuntarily.

“I thought everyone was faking it,” @julianna.muscat said, shocked that the hanger turned her head. 

For @indssxo, the challenge didn’t work the first time she tried it. But when she tried again with her eyes closed, her head eventually turned toward the right. 

According to IFL Science, the hanger reflex was first discovered on a Japanese television program in 1995. In a segment, a man claimed that he wore a hanger on his head while studying and realized it caused his head to rotate. 

Then, in 2015, researchers in Japan suggested that the hanger reflex is triggered by compressing the “unilateral frontotemporal region” of the head. In the study, 95.8% of the 120 participants experienced the hanger reflex, and in 85.4%, the head turned in the direction of the compressed side. 

Scientists hope the discovery of the hanger reflex will lead to noninvasive treatments for neurological issues and dystonia disorders that cause involuntary neck movements.

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