People who have smaller fingers have a better sense of touch, according to new research in the Dec. 16 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. This finding explains why women tend to have better tactile acuity than men, because women on average have smaller fingers.
“Neuroscientists have long known that some people have a better sense of touch than others, but the reasons for this difference have been mysterious,” said Daniel Goldreich, PhD, of McMaster University in Ontario, one of the study’s authors. “Our discovery reveals that one important factor in the sense of touch is finger size.”
To learn why the sexes have different finger sensitivity, the authors first measured index fingertip size in 100 university students. Each student’s tactile acuity was then tested by pressing progressively narrower parallel grooves against a stationary fingertip — the tactile equivalent of the optometrist’s eye chart. The authors found that people with smaller fingers could discern tighter grooves.
“The difference between the sexes appears to be entirely due to the relative size of the person’s fingertips,” said Ethan Lerner, MD, PhD, of Massachusetts General Hospital, who is unaffiliated with the study. “So, a man with fingertips that are smaller than a woman’s will be more sensitive to touch than the woman.”
The authors also explored why more petite fingers are more acute. Tinier digits likely have more closely spaced sensory receptors, the authors concluded. Several types of sensory receptors line the skin’s interior and each detect a specific kind of outside stimulation. Some receptors, named Merkel cells, respond to static indentations (like pressing parallel grooves), while others capture vibrations or movement.
When the skin is stimulated, activated receptors signal the central nervous system, where the brain processes the information and generates a picture of what a surface “feels” like. Much like pixels in a photograph, each skin receptor sends an aspect of the tactile image to the brain — more receptors per inch supply a clearer image.
To find out whether receptors are more densely packed in smaller fingers, the authors measured the distance between sweat pores in some of the students, because Merkel cells cluster around the bases of sweat pores. People with smaller fingers had greater sweat pore density, which means their receptors are probably more closely spaced.
“Previous studies from other laboratories suggested that individuals of the same age have about the same number of vibration receptors in their fingertips. Smaller fingers would then have more closely spaced vibration receptors,” Goldreich said. “Our results suggest that this same relationship between finger size and receptor spacing occurs for the Merkel cells.”
Whether the total number of Merkel cell clusters remains fixed in adults and how the sense of touch fluctuates in children as they age is still unknown. Goldreich and his colleagues plan to determine how tactile acuity changes as a finger grows and receptors grow farther apart.
The research was supported by the National Eye Institute and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council in Canada, facilitating you with science daily. Scientists still searching for better results.
Grapes increase iron deficiency risk: Research
Despite the benefits reported for antioxidants, a new study suggests some of these compounds may place the consumers at risk of developing iron deficiency and anemia.
Previous studies have pointed out the various health benefits of polyphenols including their capability for fighting prostate cancer and leukemia, reducing the risk of heart disease, improving bone health, and preventing glaucoma and other eye conditions.
According to a recently released study, some polyphenol antioxidants, commonly found in legumes and fruits as well as chocolate, green tea and olive oil, are responsible for iron deficiency, the most common nutritional deficiency in the world.
Polyphenol antioxidants grape seed extract and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) found in green tea interact with the mechanism through which iron is absorbed in the intestinal tract.
In other words, the combination of polyphenol and iron cannot pass the intestinal cells to enter the bloodstream, resulting in iron deficiency in high-risk individuals, such as pregnant women and young children.
Scientists therefore urged individuals particularly those who are at risk of iron deficiency to keep an eye on the polyphenols they consume.
Rocky relationships hurt men more than women
While young women are more affected by their relationship status—that is, whether they are in one or not—young men are more sensitive to a relationship’s quality, such as how supportive or straining it is, LiveScience reported.
“Simply being in a relationship may be more important for a woman’s identity,” said lead researcher Robin Simon of Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Having a relationship “is something that is emphasized constantly for women. Just pick up any woman’s magazine.”
But once in a relationship, the romance’s strengths are particularly helpful to men, and its difficult periods are particularly hard on them, Simon told LiveScience.
In the study, 1,611 men and women between the ages of 18 and 23 answered questions about their relationships and their own emotional states, including rating symptoms of depression and substance abuse. The questions were asked twice, two years apart, helping researchers deduce that emotional states were largely influenced by a relationship, not the other way around.
Rocky relationships were associated with equal amounts of depression in young men and women, and significantly greater problems with substance abuse and dependence among men. The correlative findings were published in the June issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
Why relationships affect young women and men differently is not yet clear. But the finding contradicts the conventional view of women as the more emotionally involved romantic partner.
No matter their game face, men are not stoically impervious to a relationship’s ebbs and flows, Simon said.
Experts Says , Life Could Survive on Mars
Researchers at McGill’s department of natural resources, the National Research Council of Canada, the University of Toronto and the SETI Institute have discovered that methane-eating bacteria survive in a highly unique spring located on Axel Heiberg Island in Canada’s extreme North. Dr. Lyle Whyte, McGill University microbiologist explains that the Lost Hammer spring supports microbial life, that the spring is similar to possible past or present springs on Mars, and that therefore they too could support life.
The subzero water is so salty that it doesn’t freeze despite the cold, and it has no consumable oxygen in it. There are, however, big bubbles of methane that come to the surface, which had provoked the researchers’ curiosity as to whether the gas was being produced geologically or biologically and whether anything could survive in this extreme hypersaline subzero environment. “We were surprised that we did not find methanogenic bacteria that produce methane at Lost Hammer,” Whyte said, “but we did find other very unique anaerobic organisms — organisms that survive by essentially eating methane and probably breathing sulfate instead of oxygen.”
It has been very recently discovered that there is methane and frozen water on Mars. Photos taken by the Mars Orbiter show the formation of new gullies, but no one knows what is forming them. One answer is that there could be that there are springs like Lost Hammer on Mars.
“The point of the research is that it doesn’t matter where the methane is coming from,” Whyte explained. “If you have a situation where you have very cold salty water, it could potentially support a microbial community, even in that extreme harsh environment.” While Axel Heiberg is already an inhospitable place, the Lost Hammer spring is even more so. “There are places on Mars where the temperature reaches relatively warm -10 to 0 degrees and perhaps even above 0ºC,” Whyte said, “and on Axel Heiberg it gets down to -50, easy. The Lost Hammer spring is the most extreme subzero and salty environment we’ve found. This site also provides a model of how a methane seep could form in a frozen world like Mars, providing a potential mechanism for the recently discovered Martian methane plumes.”
The research was published in the International Society for Microbial Ecology Journal and received logistical support from McGill University’s Arctic Research Station and the Canadian Polar Continental Shelf Project. Funding was received from NASA, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Canadian Space Agency. Additional funding for student research was provided by the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, and the Fonds Québécois de la Recherche sur la Nature et les Technologies.
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