Ticklish Spots on the Feet
Your armpits and feet are two areas where you are highly sensitive to the torturous or laugh-inducing act of tickling. Tickling involves manipulating the skin in order to stimulate sensations. In addition to who is tickling you, where a person tickles you on the feet can increase your reaction to this act.
There are two types of tickling, according to The Johns Hopkins News-Letter. The first is knismesis, which results from a light touch to the body. This tickling usually does not cause laughter, but it can leave your skin feeling itchy or prickly. The other type is gargalesis, which is a more reactive form of tickling. Gargalesis involves applying more intense pressure to ticklish areas such as the feet, which causes a sensation that can be pleasurable, laugh-inducing or unpleasant.
While the soles of the feet have thick skin, they also contain highly concentrated areas of nerve endings, according to "Human Anatomy and Physiology with Interactive Physiology." These nerve endings can make your skin highly sensitive to tickling, particularly in the arches of the feet where the nerves are closest to the skin. The very tops of the feet contain nerve endings, but they are less sensitive than the soles of the feet.
In addition to nerve endings, the bottoms of the feet contain larger volumes of Meissner's corpuscles, a nerve receptor associated with skin sensitivity and touch, according to "Human Anatomy and Physiology with Interactive Physiology." This makes the feet more sensitive to touch than other areas of the skin, with the exception of the armpits. Because the feet contain lots of nerve endings and Meissner's corpuscles, they are subject to both knismesis and gargalesis.
Dr. Michael Nirenberg, a podiatrist and author, has a theory about why the feet are especially ticklish. "When people think about being tickled, they often recall a parent or relative moving their finger or a feather lightly across their foot's sole," Dr. Nirenberg said. "The same sensation occurs when a spider, scorpion or other insect scurries across our foot, leading scientists to believe ticklish feet are an evolutionary defense against insect bites. Given that our feet are close to the ground, often exposed, and are among our most ticklish body parts, this explanation makes sense."
Some people seem to be more ticklish in the feet than others. This could have less to do with the amount of nerve endings and more to do with who is tickling you, according to The Boston Globe. You might find that you are more ticklish when a person is tickling you in order to antagonize you than you are when a person tickles your feet to make you laugh.
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