Touch Sense Overview I

Touch is the physical contact of the body with an object or element with a response that triggers some reaction in the brain. This sense is local and does not allow the individual to receive or provide a tactile response over distance. There are several types of touch with different mechanics to provide varying versions of the sense. As such, this section will be different than the other four classic senses, vision, hearing, taste, and smell. Most forms of touch are on the exterior of the body, especially the skin. However, our interiors also are able to sense touch in various forms, such as tension and pain.

We use touch to understand our spatial relation to the world, brushing against the surface of any object within the environment. Depending on the part of the body what is providing the tactile sense, there are different sensations that can be experienced, and through experience and innate understanding, we are able to differentiate the feelings and provide a response in reaction. Some forms of touch are pleasurable, but many are not, and the body must take any cues that are available to keep itself in a safe position. When used in relation to other senses, such as hearing or vision, we are able to understand the form and makeup of many or most objects, without requiring the dissection or definition of them. This intuition represents the powerful interplay of the sense of touch with the brain, where the body can provide sensory input, and the mind creates models or understanding.

Touch is likely our first sense in evolution. The receptors and the interaction with the brain are relatively simple in relation to the other senses, especially hearing and vision. We can argue touch is very close to taste, because the elements must come into contact with the body to ensure there is a reaction to the elements explored. Smell is similar in some ways because it uses a simple interaction with the environment to produce the sense response.

We must use touch when other senses are lacking, however the intimate connection that is provided with the sense, because of proximity makes it a sense that can act successfully alone or in combination with one or more of the other sensory modes. There may be a very immediate understanding of the world through the various forms of touch which are not possible with other senses, such as vision. This is because touch is immediate and present, whereas the other senses, besides taste, require some translation or definition of meaning in the brain for understanding. For one without experience with a new object, the nature and importance of the novel element is unknown, and it is necessary to learn what the object is at distance. We can argue this is the case with touch, however the interaction and instant sensing of the object in question make understanding extremely fast–as fast as the speed of electricity through the nervous system.

We use touch in times without other senses, but also in combination with other senses to have a complete experience of the object. This can take place at anytime and anywhere, and our bodies are constantly taking touch information that can be filtered out. Arguably, any form of touch can be turned off or hidden through the brain to avoid constant response to a persistent input. Some might say that pain is not avoidable. This could very well be true, and it is extremely important for the body to be protected and without danger. There are conditions that don’t allow a person to feel pain, and though this at first could be wonderful, in reality, it is very dangerous. To think that one can put an appendage into a flame or slice the skin with a knife, and the individual feels no pain, this is very scary and likely will not allow the person to stay healthy, as there are hazardous things everywhere in the world, and the body needs this sense of pain to avoid the bad things.

The sense above is nociception, the sense of pain, but there are many for touch. Some of the other senses of touch are: pressure, itch, cold thermoception, heat thermoception, proprioception, tension, stretch, vibration, equilibrioception (which some might lump with hearing), thirst, and hunger. Each of these has specific mechanics and a special response in the brain. We will look at each of these separately, but for now, we will look at these all as the general sense of touch.

    1. How would you compare Touch to the other senses?
    2. How would you contrast Touch to the other senses?
    3. In your own words, what is Touch?
    4. When is the best time to use Touch? How?
    5. When is the worst time to use Touch? Which sense is better to use in this case?
    6. Outline the types of Touch.
  1. Diagrams–Touch Science & Exposition
  2. General Strategy for Touch
    1. Applying
      1. How would you use Touch?
      2. What approaches would you use for Touch?
      3. What conditions or equipment would you need to show Touch?
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