Thursday, January 14, 2016

Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind

Presented by David J. Linden, PhD
Department of Neuroscience
The Johns Hopkins University

From skin to nerves to brain, our body’s touch circuits are a complex and often odd system that powerfully influences our lives, affecting everything from consumer choice and sexual behavior to tool use and the deep origins of language. Millions of years of evolution have endowed us with areas of the brain that are dedicated to processing touch signals; with a series of dedicated sensors and nerve fibers that predispose us to respond to a stimulus like a caress, but only if it’s administered at the proper velocity; with receptors in our skin that make mint feel cool and chili peppers hot. When we lift the hood of the brain, though, we discover there are actually two different systems for processing touch: one to extract basic sensory information, and another to register its particular emotional context. Without the latter, an orgasm would feel more like a sneeze—convulsive, but not especially compelling. Because of the latter, a gentle caress from a lover administered during an argument might feel unwelcome as a spider crawling across your arm.

Dr. Linden’s book Touch (Viking Press, 2015) is an engaging and fascinating examination of this critical interface between our bodies and the outside world, exploring every aspect of this remarkable sense.

David J. Linden is a professor of neuroscience at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The author of The Accidental Mind (2007) and The Compass of Pleasure (2011), he served for many years as the Chief Editor of The Journal of Neurophysiology. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with his two children.

Saturday, February 13, 2016, 1:30 pm
National Science Foundation, Room 110
4201 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA (Ballston-MU Metro stop)
Enter NSF from the corner of 9th St. N & N. Stuart Streets.
[map] [directions]

FREE admission – 
Everyone welcome, members and non-members. 
Refreshments and socializing after the talk.

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