Somatosensory Science Facts
by Sehej Bindra and Charles Pidgeon, PH.D.
MainSpring Books

"The somatosensory system is what makes us human."

Professor Emeritus Pidgeon—founder of the Neuroscience Sensory Unit, a group of students who analyze neuroscience literature—and Sehej Bindra (Berkeley Class of 2024) provide a condensed yet comprehensive study of the somatosensory system featuring 200 questions and answers about tactile sensations and our bodies' physiological responses to these. This practical approach of applying "somatosensory neuroscience theory and then expanding on these fundamental concepts through applying them in the context of experiential research and day-to-day life" allows the book to be useful both in academic settings and to educate lay readers.

The three logically sequenced sections of the text deliver fifteen chapters of related topics ranging from the mechanics of somatosensory science to this science's cognitive and social aspects. The first part explores the foundation of the narrative with questions and facts about "general neuroscience concepts that the reader needs to understand somatosensory processes." The second examines the physiology of different types of somatosensations and their applications. The third section is a fascinating exploration of the connection between the somatosensory system viewed through topics "such as embodied cognition, pleasure, mindful meditation, and social touch."

Pidgeon and Bindra have skillfully reduced the complexities of this science into bite-sized portions that are easy to read and understand. Though it may be helpful to read the first part before embarking on the additional topics, the question and answer format makes it possible for readers to skip around the questions and answers in all the sections and to ruminate upon these by preference and at their own pace. Therefore, the book is useful whether one wants to delve deeply into the many-faceted details of the subject or simply to find answers for a specific question or two about the brain and sensory physiology. It is interesting to ponder that, as the text relates, "the close relationship between sensation and cognition demonstrates that the somatosensory system is not simply a conglomeration of molecular mechanisms and neural pathways, but rather is essential to how we understand and respond to our environment." In other words, as readers peruse this text, they can certainly relate the actual physical act of reading plus the deriving understanding of it to some of the questions and answers about cognition in the text.

The casual reader will also find a wealth of "fun facts" in this book and the answers to random but likely popular questions: "Why does a 'brain freeze' hurt?"; "Are spicy foods actually 'hot'?"; and "What could happen to a baby who is never touched as they grow up?" among many other practical inquiries. Readers with a more scientific bent will appreciate the detailed clinical descriptions of how our somatosensory systems operate. The questions and answers in each chapter are meticulously cited. There are illustrations for clarification in some of the answers and a cogent glossary and index in the back matter. The text doesn't come across as a popular science narrative, but it solidly relays the basic facts of the science clearly and skillfully. In short, it is an informative and pleasant read.

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