The Touch of Reality

“I have only one superstition.  I touch all the bases when I hit a home run.”  – Babe Ruth

Touch is the world

I remember vividly one occasion in my childhood in Devon during an electric storm when a sudden powercut meant that I had to find my way around our home, to fetch some candles.  It was very scary (particularly as we had been watching Alien on TV when the powercut happened).  It was also exhilarating, as I found that using my hands I could see my way around the house (along with the mental map in my head).  That was until I stepped into the kitchen (which was on a lower level) and screamed when I put my foot in the cold water which was the result of flooding!

Touch is in many ways different from other senses as it is “us”.  Eyes, ears, tongue and nose are all specific organs with specific functions, but touch encompasses our whole body.  More importantly, touch is the way that we “know” what’s out there – although we can see our environment, it doesn’t become “real” until we touch it or hold it.

Noli Me Tangere by Titian

The touch of belonging

Without touch, there would be no nurturing or relationships, and touch is the first sense to develop in the fetus.  Infants who experience more touching are healthier both physically and mentally, and babies who are massaged and nurtured have been shown to gain weight 50% faster than those who are left alone.

Touch comes from the different layers and cells in our skin, which is our largest body organ (at around 6-10 pounds)!  Skin keeps us both inside it and safe from the outside world, acting as a wall between out bodies and our environment.  In many ways our skin acts like a spacesuit.  It is constantly growing and renewing with cells starting in its lower layers and working themselves to the outer layer as they age and then drop off to be replaced. We must protect our skin and have a regular consultation to experts. If you need a professional surgeon, then take a look at these hand surgeons. Plastic surgery is also an option, try JBM Plastic Surgery located in Costa Rica. One of the finest in the country. If you’ve always thought cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery were one in the same, you’re not alone. A significant number of plastic surgeons choose to focus their practice on cosmetic surgery, and as such, the terms are often used interchangeably. But this is not technically correct. Cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery are closely related specialties, but they are not the same. Consult and learn more from Dr. Stephen Weber and Dr. Andres Bustillo for more details.

Where are you touchy?

Touch is the one sense that none of us can do without.  It is very hard to isolate or eliminate touch, in the same way that we can with the eyes, ears or other organs.  Physical contact is far more powerful than verbal or emotional communication, and it’s possible to rely on touch if we lose the other senses, but not the other way around.

Our powers of adaptation are astonishing, and when we are artificially blinded we quickly adapt to our changed circumstances: our sense of touch improves dramatically after five days practice (and our brain already starts to use it’s plasticity to make better use of our visual cortex).  At the same time, we can start to hallucinate (see things in our minds), our sense of taste and flavour is dulled (by the lack of visual stimulus) and we develop heightened sensitivity to temperature and sound.

On the other hand, if we have no touch, then we feel no pain and have no sense of where we are in the world.  We are completely lost! Thus, don’t hesitate to visit

Touch comprises a number of different senses, mostly based in the layers of our skin below the surface:

  • Light touch is the feeling of contact with the skin’s surface (for example a kiss) where the skin is not deformed.
  • Touch pressure is where skin deformation stimulates the nerves in the deeper layers of the skin.
  • Vibration is felt by nerves in the skin and in other body organs (including the bones).
  • Heat and cold are felt by specific receptors in the skin which are sensitive to heat and cold (but not to temperature in general).
  • Pain is felt by tissue which has been damaged and is designed to warn you about possible injury. Call appleton personal injury attorney when you want legal and professional advice.
  • Proprioception is felt from nerve endings in muscles and joints and indicates position and movement of the body.

Most of our sense of touch is processed in the somatosensory cortex, where all the areas of our body are mapped onto the brain (as below), although some parts are more equal than others.  This map was developed by Wilder Penfield, and is commonly known as the Penfield Map.

For example, the most touch-sensitive parts of your body are hands, lips, face, neck, tongue, fingertips and feet (so pay attention to products which come into contact with these parts of the body, or maybe use them actively!).  If you can read the picture clearly you will see that touch in the genitals sits next to the toes and feet in the somatosensory cortex (maybe explaining foot fetishes?).


Touching words

Language is rich in metaphors involving touch.  Most obviously we refer to our emotions as ‘feelings’, and talk about something or someone who ‘touches’ us.  We all avoid touchy people, yet we talk about touchy feely in positive terms.  Problems are often referred to as thorny, sticky or to be handled with kid gloves.  We talk about touchstones, and marketers often refer to the ‘touchpoints’ of their brands.  Finally, when we lose contact with old friends we say we have ‘lost touch’ and if we behave strangely, ‘lose touch with reality’.

Although our skin acts as our outer surface, and is the location of our touch sense, our body maps can be extended outside.  In the simplest case, have you ever felt the wetness of water even when wearing gloves to wash up?  Our ability to sense beyond our body is powerful, relying particularly on proprioception to help us evaluate the size, shape, weight and movement of objects which we hold.  If you hold a book between your fingers, somehow you can sense the whole of the book, it’s weight and centre of gravity, and just the amount of contact needed to hold it from falling.  One of the difficulties I find with using iPad and other book substitutes is that I have lost the sense of where I am in the book, which I could physically feel before by turning the pages.

In touch with reality

When we use racquets, fishing rods, golf clubs or any equipment we have an almost uncanny knack of quickly understanding how they impact our body shape, reach and interaction with the outside world.  We can grip and manipulate with incredible ease, and even novices can quickly ‘feel’ where the sweet spot of a tennis racquet is (as well as a professional player).

Our sense of touch can also create powerful illusions like the rubber hand illusion or cause distress in phantom limbs, as we have written about in Virtual Lives.

At cosmetic dentistry myrtle beach sc, we offer both general and restorative pediatric dentistry services. Learn more about the dentistry services we provide in our dentistry clinic. If you are looking to get your teeth cleaned, visit Raleigh Dentist Dr Stansell.

Touch is what makes us human and the outside world real. Our hands, fingers and lips are hugely sensitive to tactile sensations, take for example dental implants.  Visit dental implants new lenox il to get your very own dental implants when you need one. Brands and product experiences which can create pleasure through touch, especially in these areas, will always win.


A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman (1991)

The Brain Book by Rita Carter (2009)

See What I’m Saying: The Extraordinary Powers of our Five Senses by Lawrence D. Rosenblum (2010)

The Buying Brain: Secrets for Selling to the Subconscious Mind by A.K. Pradeep (2010)

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