The sensations you feel whenever you throw on a shirt, let the shower rain on your head or brush your hand across your pet’s belly are all part of tactile stimulation and the feeling of touch.
Tactile stimulation includes the activating of nerve signals beneath the skin's surface that inform the body of texture, temperature and other touch-sensations.
Nerve endings beneath the epidermis report to the brain on cold and warmth as feedback of tactile stimulation. Information can vary from as low as 50º Fahrenheit to as high as 109º Fahrenheit. The nervous system integrates data from both receptors to determine the sensation of in-between temperatures.
Also known as nociceptors, these specialized nerve endings release chemicals through the spinal cord which alert the brain of painful tactile stimulation. There are two forms of pain – quick and intense or slow, dull and rising. Certain drugs (pain killers) and the body’s natural endorphins can block pain receptors from passing through the spinal cord resulting in the temporary relief of pain.
These nerve endings focus on location of the body by sensing movement and pressure at different positions. Most of these are located in the muscles and limbs.
Benefits of Tactile Stimulation
Research with preterm babies published in the December 2000 issue of “Early Childhood Education Journal” found that tactile stimulation via nurses or mothers stroking the baby while it is in the incubator can improve growth, neural activity and development. Another study published in the "American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias" have shown that tactile stimulation also benefits the well being of those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia (1997).