The Magic of Touch

pexels-photo-94898Most of us love to get a hug or be touched. Here are a few amazing facts about the magic of the sense of touch that we all seem to need.

There are 3,000 nerve endings for touch in the fingertips.  It’s a fact that women have smaller fingers than men (most anyway!), and people with daintier digits feel things more, according to one study.  They speculate that it might be because smaller fingertips have more closely spaced nerve endings.  The fingers, along with the tongue and tips, are the most sensitive body parts.  The torso is the least sensitive, in spite of its larger size.  The entire torso has about as many touch receptors as a tiny fingertip.  Now we know why those injuries on the torso don’t seem as painful as those on the fingers, tongue or tips.

We always seem to think another person’s skin is softer than our own.  A lot of research has been focused on whether one person’s skin is softer than another’s and the researchers think this makes us more likely to build emotional bonds through touch.

Can we communicate emotions through touch?  This can happen more than 50% of the time, which is slightly better odds than flipping a coin.  One study tried to convey 8 distinct emotions—anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, sympathy, happiness and sadness—to a blindfolded stranger solely through their touch.  Their success was at least half the time on average.

By the time we hit our 70’s, our supply of touch receptors is cut in half from 50 per square millimeter of skin to that at age 10.

We have often learned that infants who are not cuddled and touched enough often grow more slowly and become sick more often.  That good old skin-to-skin touch seems to make babies feel more secure.  I have even seen babies that are handled too carefully, acting frightened or scared.  They need to be held securely to feel that close emotion and comfort.  This is the basis for strong bonding between parents and their child.

Various types of contact with others make a stronger team.  Researchers studied NBA teams during the 2008-09 season and found that those who touched the most also won the most.  Just those chest bumps and team huddles improve the performance.  Touches of all kinds might still instill trust and boost cooperation, making players play better for one another.  So, don’t plan on giving up those half-hugs, fist bumps and high fives!

Keep those emotions running and hug your kids every chance you get.  After all, we never know when we won’t be around to enjoy it.  Love your babies and keep them close for a well-adjusted and happy infant! (This applies to all those grandchildren as well!)

-Dr Fredda Branyon

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