We don’t always pay attention to our sense of touch, though it is critical to survival. Sensations of pain, heat or cold protect us from injury. But the importance of touch goes far beyond that.

Pain and Pleasure:

Our sense of touch also provides us with great pleasure. Caress is an essential element of bonding between babies and their parents, and of course it is also part of the pleasure between sexual partners.

Around the world, people refer to chili peppers as hot and mint as cool. These perceptions are rooted in the physiology of touch.

Find out why we can’t tickle ourselves, how the sense of touch contributes to our enjoyment of food, and whether we can nurture our sense of touch.

This Week’s Guest:

David J. Linden, PhD, is a professor in the Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He is the author of The Accidental Mind, The Compass of Pleasure, and most recently, Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind. His website is davidlinden.org

Photo credit: Jacob Linden

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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Air Date:June 27, 2015

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  1. Katherine

    Touch is an absolute necessity to me. However I write for another reason.
    What is a podcast and how do I access it? I only have a computer and a cell phone.
    I suspect there are many older fans of the Greadons who do not know what a podcast is.

    • The People's Pharmacy

      Thanks for your question, Katherine. Our podcast is a digital version of our radio show that you can listen to whenever and wherever you like. You can use a computer or your smart phone. We’ve got more information here:

      You can also listen to our radio shows through your web browser. Just go to:

      and click on a recent show. Our shows are available to listen to streaming through our website on the Monday following radio broadcast. Click the play button (right arrow) at the top of any recent radio show page and enjoy!

  2. Dolores
    Green Bay, WI

    There is nothing like a hug. The closeness of body to body can mean so much to a person. Your relationship does not have to be intimate to get the benefit from a touch of the hand or a hug. I know people who pride themselves in not wanting a hug or being a hugger. Oh, what they are missing. A touch or a hug can change so many things. I want that feeling of intimacy, of being one with another.

  3. Judy

    This is so true! When recovering from thyroidectomy and subsequent emergency op for hematoma same day my pain levels went way out of control and sleep was elusive. Then a dear friend came to see me and held my hand for what seemed like 30 mins. After this my heart felt at peace, the shock and anxiety of the trauma seemed to dissipate and I slept all night for the first time since my hospitalization!!

    • Richard
      West Palm Beach

      I hope you have healed from your illnesses.
      My Curiosity asks the question “Was is the touch making the difference or the presence of your friend?”

      • Helen M
        Modesto, CA

        I read years ago that a man’s hand holding a woman’s is as good as a pain pill. There are nights when my pain is just bad enough to prevent me from falling asleep, or staying asleep. Most times just holding my husband’s hand is enough to allow me to fall gently asleep. There are other times when lying awake has created so much tension in my body that holding hands does not help and I have to get up, read, relax, come back, take his hand and fall asleep. I try to avoid pain medication at night because it really constipates me. And sleeping pills constipate my brain the day after I take them. So both are for when absolutely nothing else helps!

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