What’s the most ticklish part of your body? Is it your feet? Does the thought of having your feet tickled make you cringe, or does it bring back childhood memories?
Along with your underarms, your feet are two of the most ticklish spots on your body. Scientists who have had the opportunity to study tickling will tell you that the areas of your body that are most ticklish are typically the most sensitive. These sensitive areas of your body act as a defence mechanism to help protect you from injury.
For example, your feet are very sensitive. This is because there are many nerves in your feet. But just how many nerves are there? Scientists estimate 8000 nerve endings, also known as Meissner’s corpuscles, supplying your feet.
The nerves of your feet also contain pain receptors in addition to touch receptors, both of which can be stimulated with tickling. Perhaps this explains why some people don’t like their feet being tickled! Your feet play a leading role in absorbing the various shocks or pressures caused by our day to day activities. It’s these nerves in your feet that serve these purposes, which also makes them more ticklish!
Generally, if you aren’t ticklish, or more sensitive, on your feet it could be a sign of damage to or issues with the nerve receptors. There are multiple medical conditions which can ultimately result in this damage including diabetes, circulation issues, arthritis, vitamin deficiencies or thyroid conditions. Some medications can even result in a change in your nerve receptors! Just to make things confusing, these conditions, more specifically diabetes, can cause hypersensitivity to your feet. When the nerves responsible for sending messages to the brain become damaged, their signals are often incorrect or confused, therefore resulting in feelings of high sensitivity, burning or even coldness.
It has been found that there are 2 different types of ticking that can occur:
- Knismesis – this requires low levels of stimulation to sensitive parts of the body. Knismesis can be triggered by light touch or movement across the skin. This will often occur when you brush past grass or with crawling insects, prompting scratching or rubbing at the ticklish area.
- Gargalesis – this is more of an enjoyable experience in which you are laughing and are awaiting the anticipation of being tickled. While it is possible to trigger a knismesis response in oneself, it is typically impossible to trigger the tickle response gargalesis in oneself.