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For Find Out Friday - Why is One Foot More Ticklish Than the Other?


As I sit here typing I can’t seem to stop thinking about my nails. Mainly that they REALLY need to get done. They are starting to chip and become unruly. As soon I as think about making an appointment my mind immediately returns to this question: “which of my feet will be ticklish this time?”

Because I am a girl that needs her fingernails and toenails to match, I always get a pedicure whenever I get my nails done. And while this should be an activity I enjoy, it often feels like a chore, despite my going only once every three to four weeks. I know; #firstworldproblems. 


Anyway, each and every time I get my toes done, as soon as they are done soaking in the bubbly water I wonder, which of my feet will be ticklish today?  Without fail one of them always seems to get the brunt of it and suddenly what was supposed to be a relaxing activity has made me all tense.

So, is there a scientific reason for this? 

According to most research, yes.

While the answer doesn’t have a direct correlation to any one thing, it definitely has something to do with our central nervous system. 

My central nervous system has never been kind to me a la the last fifteen years or so I have spent battling chronic migraines (see one such related post here: https://bit.ly/2SXm0yW). But now I need to acknowledge the benefits of having such a well developed one.

The reason some people are more ticklish than others, as well as why the right foot seems to be the predominantly more ticklish foot, has something to do with the nerves in our body. Though because of the way our brains process pain and pleasure, it is difficult for scientists to pinpoint the reasons why.

It is interesting to note that not only humans are prone to being ticklish. There are some animals, such as monkeys and cats, who respond like to us to the sensation. Although I admit I cannot imagine how you can tell if a monkey or cat is ticklish. 

There are two types of nerve ending responses when we are tickled. The first is called Knismesis which occurs when a feather-light touch on our skin's surface is irritated. 

The second is known as Gargalesis which brings about a more enjoyable, laughable, response. 

Basically it is the way our brain is processing the touch that determines how ticklish we are or whether or not we will like it. 

Theories that can explain this tend to relate back to our cavemen ancestors when we relied heavily on the sensors in our feet (back when we weren’t wearing shoes) to keep us alive. This is just another example of survival of the fittest. 

Today we still rely on pain to keep us safe and those who sadly suffer from conditions that do not allow them to feel pain, ironically often live more dangerous lives. More about that from this previous Find Out Friday (https://bit.ly/2SXsNIW).  

Thus, being able to even feel your feet to decipher what, if any, touch is dangerous is a good sign. It beens you are healthy enough to be annoyed. 

Now that my chronic migraines have mostly retreated, I am happy my central nervous system has only my semi ticklish feet to contend with.

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