The Science and Psychology Behind Touch

The sense of touch, also known as the somatosensory system, is the gateway to how we perceive pressure, temperature, pain, movement, and vibration. In the brain, the postcentral gyrus is the place where all the information is processed for what goes on outside our bodies. Since we normally don´t pay attention to how, when, and with what frequency we come in contact with others, we wanted our readers to realize the importance of such an underrated sense.

The dermis, the bottom layer of our skin, is full of tiny nerve endings, which perceives the information of everything our body comes in contact with. It then carries this information to the spinal cord, which ultimately carries the message to the brain where it is finally registered. This, of course, is only a technical explanation of the main process. Most explanations of this process forget to include all secondary processes that are involved with this sense.

For example, when the body comes in contact with a warm touch, it sets of the release of oxytocin, which is a hormone involved in various behaviours such as social recognition and trust. Besides, it may also help to reduce the levels of the hormone linked to stress, called cortisol. With the brain relaxed and freed from other responsibilities, it may now focus on other important daily tasks, such as problem solving.

As well, some parts of the skin are packed with different types of receptors. The Meissner´s Corpuscles, for example, which are enclosed in areas of the body that are particularly sensitive like: palms, soles, lips, eyelids, external genitals, and nipples.

It seems, though, how we come in contact with others since we are born will detrimentally influence the way we will view the whole concept of touch throughout the remainder of our lives. Likewise, society may also affect the way we view the endeavour of physical contact, given that it moulds our reasoning on whether if it occurs on terms acceptable to society. 

Lack of touch affects greatly our interpersonal relations. “There are higher proportions of sexual dysfunctions in many high-tech low-touch countries, with over 50% of all marriages in the U.S. experiencing at least one significant sexual dysfunction (Masters & Johnson, 1970). It is estimated that only 10-15% of all marriages beyond the first few years is sensually healthy (Zilbergeld, 1988).” To exemplify how this happens we have found this short dialogue helpful.
Women complain to their male lovers, "you never hold me anymore; the only time you touch me is when you are grabbing my breasts or butt or crotch!" Men counter with, "Well, you never touch me at all anymore." To which she replies, "Well, if I do you start taking off my clothes!"
These and many other examples provide evidence to add to the scientific findings that something is seriously wrong. Touch should not always be intended as a sexual preamble. Indeed, we recommend our readers to learn to separate the different ideas which may be expressed through this sense. It is utterly important that we come across the question of why societies which are so technologically advanced and civilized can be simultaneously so violent and unsuccessful at a level of global interrelations. Much more research should be dedicated to this topic, yet for the time being, we would like to hear your opinions on the subject. Who knows? Maybe your ideas will be the catalyst for a more well-rounded and complete immersion into the realm of human touch.
Pictures via accentmarkd and BriannaStudio
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