I recently reach Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mindby David J. Linden (2015).
DJL is a physician, but interestingly, not one that specializes in skin. This book is his very thorough examination of how touch, the perception(s) we get through our skin, is received, processed, and integrated into how we respond and behave downstream of those “touches.”
My biggest takeaways:
-There are multiple types of touch receptors embedded in the largest organ of our bodies, the skin.
-There are multiple neural “pathways” by which those touch receptors communicate with our brain, some very fast, some very slow, some extremely acute, some rather diffused.
-As the brain receives signals from our touch receptors, it aggregates and collates those varied signals, and it imposes its own biases into its interpretations of those signals.
-What we feel with our skin is inherently intertwined with what we feel emotionally and what we think intellectually.
-Rattlesnakes strike based on their thermal radars, not by sight, sound, or smell (and the range of that strike is up to three feet).
My favorite quotes:
“… the epidermis is completely renewed about every fifty days.” (p. 36)
“The truly amazing fact is that the brain is exerting control over the information that it receives. The brain actively and subconsciously suppresses or enhances pain information on a moment-to-moment basis. It spins the media, so to speak.” (p. 164)
“The similarity of emotional pain and physical pain is not merely a construction of evocative or poetic speech. The metaphor is real and it is encoded in the brain’s emotional pain circuitry. Social rejection hurts.” (p. 174)
Though pretty technical at times, this book really enlightened me with regard to the “interplay” between our skin and our brain. Intriguing stuff. Glad I read it.