Men Can't Hear: Sex-Linked Sensory Differences

But overall, sense of taste tends to be consistent across gender as well as across age.

"Taste probably resists decaying with age the best of all the senses," Breslin said. "We know people can live just fine without vision or hearing. But if you can't taste, truly can't taste, it can be a real problem for people."

Taste buds and tongue tissue is highly resilient, regenerating itself constantly and resisting change over time, but Breslin pointed out that people can lose their sense of taste, through chemotherapy for head and neck cancer, for example, and they can have a difficult time eating and getting enough nutrition to sustain themselves.

"It's probably the one sense that, more than any other sense, would be difficult to live without."

Touch

Touch perception varies greatly from person to person, male to female, with little evidence yet that there are major differences between men and women.



Touch is a subset of our peripheral senses. Nerve cells transmit information to the spinal cord and brain where the sensation is interpreted. Some nerves are activated by intense, painful pressure, some are activated by light touch, some remain active for a long time, and some become sensitized to a stimulus quickly until it changes.

"Of all the mechanical senses, the two that are most likely to show some gender differences are in pain sensitivity ... and sensual touch, I would guess," said Dr. Mike Caterina, an associate professor of biological chemistry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Ongoing research on low-threshold C-fibers, which are smaller and thinner than other neurons that perceive touch, have shown them to be involved in some of the sensual aspects of touch, Caterina said.

"They are involved in a lot of social interactions -- maternal-child bonding or sexual situations -- tactile information that is transmitted back and forth," Caterina said.

Further research might indicate greater differences between how males and females perceive touch from these low-threshold C-fibers.

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