The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 998: The Health Effects of Touch

How does our sense of touch help connect us to loved ones and protect us from harm?
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The Health Effects of Touch

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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

Photo credit: Jacob Linden

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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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.

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!

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.

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!!

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?”

* Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^