Johns Hopkins neuroscientist and bestselling author of The Compass of Pleasure, David J. Linden presents an engaging and fascinating examination of how the interface between our sense of touch and our emotional responses affects our social interactions as well as our general health and development. Accessible in its wit and clarity, Touch explores scientific advances in the understanding of touch that help explain our sense of self and our experience of the world.
From skin to nerves to brain, the organization of the body’s touch circuits powerfully influences our lives—affecting everything from consumer choice to sexual intercourse, tool use to the origins of language, chronic pain to healing. Interpersonal touch is crucial to social bonding and individual development. Linden lucidly explains how sensory and emotional context work together to distinguish between perceptions of what feels good and what feels bad. Linking biology and behavioral science, Linden offers an entertaining and enlightening answer to how we feel in every sense of the word. (Synopsis from the Penguin.com site)
As an avid reader and music lover I’ve considered what life would be like deprived of either sense, truly gosh awful. But there are ways to deal with both and lead a full productive life. You can learn Braille and music can still be heard through vibrations. Sense of smell and taste are trickier as one affects the other. If you can’t smell natural gas you wouldn’t know if it were leaking. If you can’t smell coffee, it wouldn’t taste the same and the pleasure of good food would be lost. The loss of either would reduce many of life’s pleasures but both can be dealt with. Indeed, there are several medical reasons for olfactory loss that, with treatment, can return some or most of the sense of smell. Personally the sense of touch ranked low on my list of must have. I’d never actually contemplated how touch affects every aspect of life, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Touch was something I took for granted, ignored, and underestimated. Not any more.
· Remember the orphanage children in Romania? They suffered from a myriad of problems, across all spectrums, resulting from their rarely being held or touched due to understaffing.
· What about a neo-natal ICU ward for preemies that lowered the mortality rate from 70 % to 10% by using kangaroo care?
· Did you know that koalas and chimps have fingerprints eerily similar to humans? Some weasels and other mammals have fingerprints while others don’t?
· What if you couldn’t feel pain? People with this condition usually die young. Then there are those who experience random attacks of incredible pain but live full lives.
· The science of orgasm. Ha, it is more mental than physical. Although we experience orgasms as intrinsically pleasurable, they are really just a trick our brains are playing on us through simultaneous activity in many brain regions.
If, like me, you aren’t scientifically inclined, please don’t let that put you off. David Linden does a superlative job of conveying the complex yet fascinating subject of touch to lay people via stories (often humorous), examples, pictures, graphs, and charts.
TOUCH: THE SCIENCE OF HAND, HEART, AND MIND educates through entertaining readers. From vampire bats and pit vipers to bad hand jobs and beyond, you’ll be amazed at what you never knew about the seemingly simple act of a touch. I certainly was.