Nerve Distribution—A Sensitive Topic
No threat looms quite so large
as that of the Tickle Monster.
You never know when it will
strike, and it takes only moments to
reduce you to a collapsed pile of giggles.
But why is the Tickle Monster so
effective? Why are certain spots more
ticklish than others? The answer has to do with nerve distribution.
The existence of tickle spots highlights
a design feature of skin—not all
areas are the same. Different parts of
your skin sport wildly different sensitivities
to the world around you.
Sensory Neuron Distributions
These differences come from varying
“sensory neuron distributions.”
That’s science for saying some parts
of your skin have more nerve endings
than others. Nerve distribution is different in various parts of your body. Your fingertips hold
more nerve endings than your palms,
which have more than your forearms,
and on it goes.
Have you ever noticed that your
mom checks your temperature with
her cheek instead of the back of her
hand? Or that when you check the
temperature of a pool with your foot it
can feel different than when you dunk
your head in?
The more nerve endings packed into
any given patch of skin, the more sensitive
it is to temperature, pressure, and
vibrations. While the skin on the back
of your leg could feel bumps on a page,
your fingertips distinguish individual
letters of the Braille alphabet.
God designed our brains to process
a lot of information within limited
space. The more nerves in a patch of
skin, the bigger the brain area needed
to interpret their signals. Furthermore,
if all areas were as sensitive as the fingertips,
the constant flood of information
would overwhelm us. So our Creator
prioritized, making our fingertips,
hands, and face more sensitive than
our upper arms, back, and legs.
Filter for Focus
In addition to targeted nerve distribution, our brain has the
remarkable ability to block overstimulation
as well. This leads to some interesting
effects. For example, can you feel
your socks right now? Well, now that
they’re on your mind, you probably can.
But after you got dressed this morning,
you likely forgot how your clothes
feel. If you think about it, you can feel
their texture, but you have to focus on
it. Your brain filters out information it
deems unimportant—like feeling your
clothes—so you can focus on more
The reverse is also true. Our brains
can “feel” things that aren’t there anymore.
People who have lost an arm or
a leg often experience phantom limb
pains. This happens when their brain
tells them that their arm, or any other
missing body part, hurts or itches.
Your brain is so used to receiving constant
“background” signals from your
entire body that when something gets
removed, it has trouble sorting out
why that information is missing.
God carefully created us, giving close
attention to all our parts, even our skin
(Job 10:11). It may all look the same,
but each part of our skin has different
strengths for different jobs, from our
forehead to our feet, from the right side
to the left. Every part of you is beautiful
and unique to accomplish God’s
ordained purpose, just like you.
Test It Yourself . . .
You can test how sensory
neurons are unequally
distributed on your body
with the help of a friend
and some common
household items. Simply
bend a paperclip into a
“U” shape and grab a ruler
that measures millimeters
to conduct your own
Close your eyes and have
your friend gently poke
the skin on the back of
your hand with the ends
of the paperclip. How
close together can you put
the ends and still feel two
separate points? Measure
that distance and compare
it to the sensitivity of your
fingertips, arms, forehead,
calves, and back.
Perform the same test on
your friend and compare
What areas of your skin
are the most sensitive?
The least? Is your right
side more or less sensitive
than your left?
chemistry from Clemson University. She writes for Answers
magazine as a freelance author.
SourceThis article originally appeared on answersingenesis.org