Touch and Body Senses - Cooley

Touch and Body Senses: How important are they?


What are the four skin senses and how do they impact us?
1. Pain: Pain signals to the body that something is wrong and that it needs to either change direction or stop what it's doing. Different types of pain take different amounts of time to travel from the site of pain, up the spinal cord, and to the brain. For example, pains that move quickly to the brain are experienced as sharp, stabbing pains while slower moving pains are experienced as throbbing or aching. No one can explain exactly why people have different pain tolerance levels, but some speculate that it's because of how much you think about being in pain.
2. Heat: Your body can sense that it is getting hotter than 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit and it knows that it needs to cool down and get away from the heat source. It does this by releasing heat in a few different ways. One option is blood vessels releasing heat and causing you face to turn red and the other option is sweating. Sweat glands produce sweat to release heat into the air and once the sweat hit the air, the act of sweat evaporating on your skin cools you down.
3. Cold: Your body can sense that it is getting colder and it does everything it can to keep all of the warm blood vessels well away from the skins surface and to get your body away from the cold surface. Goosebumps occur because, when you hair stands straight up, it warms the surface of your skin by creating friction and working the muscles attached to the hair follicles.
4. Pressure: Pressure is anything that weighs on your body. From picking something to having clothes on your body, you can sense it.
All together, these four senses create our sense of touch.
What does the gate-control theory explain?
Melzack and Wall came up with a theory in 1965 that stated that the spinal cord contains a neurological "gate" (a synapse between projection cells and small and large nerve fibers/pain receptors) that can either block pain signals or let them go along to the brain.

pain gate illustration

The gate closes whenever there is no imput or when there is imput from larger nerve fibers. But, when there is only imput from smaller nerve fibers, the "gate" is open and the pain is passed along to the brain. 
How does Lamaze make childbirth easier? 
A widely used method of childbirth is Lamaze. Lamaze uses various methods to achieve a goal of diminishing the amount of pain felt during labor. One method that is a factor in Lamaze is counter stimulation. Counter stimulation is a treatment for pain that is based on distraction. For example, when you get a new bruise, to lessen the pain it helps to apply some sort of pressure to it so that your attention is focued of that pressure instead of the injury itself. Another method is using pleasant images (i.e. "Think of a warm comfortable environment") to distract your mind from focusing on pain. The final method is relaxation that is achieved through muscle relaxation and deep breathing. Therefore, when you combine counter stimulation, distraction, and relaxation during a childbirth, the method of Lamaze is achieved.
This woman is using breathing techniques to relax.
What would happen without kinethesis? 

I can't feel my toes...
In this cartoon, the frozen man can't feel his body moving or where parts of his body were. Kinethesis is the system that allows us to sense the position and movement of any of our body parts. Without kinethesis, we'd end up like this frozen man, unable to feel our body parts or their movements. 
What is the vestibular sense?

Balance is the key to the vestibular sense

         The vestibular sense is the sense of body position and movement. Basically, it's the sense of kinethesis. This sense mainly controls the head (and in turn, the body's) sense of movements and the balance factor of the vestibular sense is located in the inner ear. (see Hearing - Lancaster). Mr. B's favorite example of this is spin wars! When you spin and then stop abruptly, the fluid in the semi-circular canals doesn't stop moving as quickly and tricks the brain into think that it's still moving.

What are the parts of the skin?

Skin diagram
            There are three layers that make up the skin: the epidermis, the dermis, and the subcutaneous layer. At the bottom of the epidermis, skin cells are made and begin travelling to the top of the epidermis. The skin that you can see is mainly old skin cells that fall off easily. The dermis contains blood vessels, nerve endings, sweat glands, and oil glands and is the main site for actually feeling a sensation. The sweat made in the dermis escapes by coming up to the epidermis and exiting though the pores. The subcutaneous layer is comprised of mostly fat, absorbs shock, and keeps your body warm. It also assists with holding the skin onto the tissues underneath it. The "roots" of the hair on your skin is called a hair follicle and is found in the subcutaneous layer.

Your Skin. (n.d.). In KidsHealth. Retrieved October 20, 2011, from                cat_id=20607

Freudenrich, C. (n.d.). How Pain Works. In How Stuff Works. Retrieved October 20, 2011, from                    /environmental/life/human-biology/pain4.htm

Myers, David G. (2007). Psychology (8th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.