Touch uses skin much as smell uses the nose. Your skin is the biggest organ of your body. It performs many important biological functions. It also provides sensual pleasure. Your skin can detect heat, cold, pressure, pain, and a vast range of touch sensations.
Caresses, pinches, punches, pats, rubs, scratches, and the feel of many different textures, from cotton to a cactus.
How does touch work?
Tactile information is conveyed to the brain when an object touches and depresses the skin which stimulates one or more of the several distinct types of receptors found in the nerve endings. These sensitive nerve endings in the skin send the touch message through nerve connections to the spinal cord. This message travels up the spinal cord and through the brainstem and the lower brain centers, finally reaching the brain’s somatosensory cortex. You become aware of where and how hard you’ve been touched once the somatosensory has been activated.
If you could examine the skin from the outermost to the deepest layer, you would find a variety of nerve endings. They differ widely in appearance. Almost all of these seem to, in some degree, respond to all different types of tactile stimulation. The more densely packed a part of the body’s surface with such sensory receptors, the more sensative it is to tactile stimulation.
We use touch to express our most intimate feelings. In the mid-1980s research established the importance of touch in human development. The research involved premature babies.
Touch gives us pleasure but also pain. Pain is a protective mechanism. If we do not feel pain we do not cease the activity we are doing that is causing us harm and can become severely injured.