cover image Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind

Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind

David J. Linden. Viking, $28.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-670-01487-3

The sensation of touch, so ubiquitous in how we interact with our world, gets a sensualist pop-biology treatment from Linden (The Compass of Pleasure), a professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His exploration of the relationship between the things we feel with our fingertips and those we feel in our hearts begins with social touch and its lasting effects on babies and rats. Linden covers the basics of tactile receptor types and sensory maps before diving into several chapters—all appropriately science-based, yet somehow slightly lurid and intimate—on caresses, sexual arousal, and orgasm. In covering some common phenomena, he explains the experience of menthol’s cool and capsaicin’s heat as not merely a linguistic metaphor, but as a multitasking adaptation of sensory cells. He also addresses strange case studies that reveal biological quirks, such as the story of a woman who, left with an itchy but numb forehead after a bout of shingles, scratched straight through to her brain. Though it’s not exactly a neurobiology primer, Linden sandwiches a surprising amount of anatomical information between the stories of bad hand jobs and children who die young because they can’t feel pain. Illus. [em](Feb.) [/em]