Touch, for humans can mean a lot of things. It is a way to hurt, to heal and to comfort while sharing our deepest feelings without uttering a single word. When you specialise on pleasure products, it makes sense to deep-dive into the science of touch. This is what we learnt!
The Science Of Touch
One of our five senses, touch develops as early as the 7th week of gestation. We know that loss of this sense is extremely rare which points to an evolutionary hierarchical sorting of our senses, putting touch at the top!
We are able to perceive touch because the millions of sensory receptors in our skin (and deeper) allows our brains via the spinal cord to register touch, pressure, pain and temperature feeding neurological information on the safety of our surroundings.
But wait, there’s so much more!
The Meissner’s corpuscles is another type of receptor that picks up light touch and these make certain areas of the body such as genitals, lips and nipples ultra sensitive to touch. If we were to look at a sensory map of the brain, these areas would appear much larger than they are in real life as the brain registers sensations in these areas most considerably.
In contrast Paccinian corpuscles are receptors that sit deep in our skin and they sense pressure and changes in vibration.
Although the science of touch is fascinating, the definition that [skin receptors] register what's happening on your body's surface is a little too rudimental a summary. The orchestra of receptors each individual has creates unique messages to the brain about every type of touch, so how we experience them is personal. We can already see that touch is so much more than chemical reactions.
I feel therefore I am
While we experience the world through touch and we in turn leave our own mark on the world there is also a sense of self that is reinforced with these exchanges. It could be said that the sense of touch, provides us a foundation for “awareness of ourselves as individuals, separated from the external world.”
The Value Of Touch
In the fields of psychology and cognitive neuroscience it has been highlighted that touch is a very powerful sensory modality. Touch has been proven to be crucial for the brain development of babies and their ability to create bonds with their caregivers.
Touch keeps us connected and is vital to our survival as a species. It reminds us that we are not alone and are cared for. Sadly however, though we are more connected than ever through technology, in person connection is waning and loneliness has now been classified as a hazard to human health.
This lack of “being in touch” is known to increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and premature death by up to 50%. Frighteningly almost half of adults in the USA say they have frequent feelings of loneliness, while millennials share that they are the most lonely and depressed generation. Researchers believe that touch deprivation could be among the reasons to blame for this.
Touch Is Not Only Sexual
While solitude can be healthy, isolation can be detrimental to our mental health; hence programs such as introducing toddlers or therapy chickens to nursing homes for the elderly proving to be effective. Easing agitated patience’s who are living with memory loss and helping to improve overall wellbeing.
We know that cuddling releases oxytocin, a naturally occurring chemical that allows us to develop trust for other people as well as the feeling of being cared for and in love. Just like when we experience sexual pleasure, non-sexual touch such as hand holding can also induce oxytocin and other feel good chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters contribute to feelings of happiness and pleasure. They are also vital for regulating our bodies on a neurological level and largely contribute to our overall wellbeing.
There has even been research to show that touch can be used as a tool for convey empathy which results in a painkilling effect and so creates an inter-personal synchronization that attributes to our social development as a species!
We know that sexual touch is an important part of the human experience and some believe it to be a human right. Touching Base, an advocacy organisation focusing on the right of disabled people and sex workers, have fought to raise awareness of the importance of sexual touch for differently abled people by connecting these often marginalised groups together.
Focusing on this human need for intimacy, desire and touch they believe that all people have an “intrinsic right to sexual expression. This right enables people to develop relationships…explore and express their sexuality and achieve intimacy”.