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Most people can't tell their toes apart without looking

Discussion in 'General Issues and Discussion Forum' started by NewsBot, Sep 23, 2015.

  1. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.


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    Press Release:
    Confusion afoot
    People struggle to tell their toes apart with their eyes closed

  2. wdd

    wdd Well-Known Member

    'We have suggested a model in which rather than sensing each toe separately, the brain just sees five blocks.'

    For toes 1 to 5 the ability to recognise each toe was 94%, 57%, 60%, 69% and 94%.

    For the model suggested above to be accurate I would have thought that the results for the ability to recognise each toe would have to be 0%, 0%, 0%, 0%, 0% or 20%, 20%, 20%, 20%, 20%, ie no better than chance?

    And no it doesn't see five 'blocks' it sees five toes and has difficulty in some cases deciding which toe is which.

    'The gaps between the actual toes do not correspond to the boundaries of those blocks.'

    I imagine you test this aspect by gently prodding the interspaces and asking what? "Which interspace am I touching?" or "which toe am I touching?".

    Come on what do you expect, it's only a press release after all.

    Still it is interesting. I would imagine the foot hand differences are the result of evolutionary differentiation of the hand and foot. In the foot I find it interesting that our knowledge of the positions of the 'outside toes' is nearly as good as in the hand (and the difference might be the result of the small population size or demonstrate a training effect and of course their figures might also include some pathology). In normal use when would you need to be able to differentiate between your 2nd, 3rd and 4th toes when you have the back up of your other senses? The 'block' analogy might have some value as a descriptor for these toes? Not a lot but maybe some.

  3. efuller

    efuller MVP

    I like the idea that people could learn to differentiate between the toes if they were motivated. I agree that there is not much motivation to learn the difference between toes. Although the fingers don't have a single muscle belly that have multiple slips that go to multiple digits. That might be a reason that people don't need to be bothered with figuring out which toe is which.

    There is a relatively easy research study for someone.

  4. wdd

    wdd Well-Known Member

    Maybe the study is far superior to the press relase.

  5. wdd

    wdd Well-Known Member

    Hi Eric,

    I thought a good test of this theory might be to look for someone who played the piano with their feet.


    Most of his playing seems to be with the first and fifth digits. I see some use of the second digit but as far as seperate use of 2, 3 and 4 is concerned I think the jury is still out.

    I wonder if the lack of individual muscles for each toe is more of an indcator that their is, under normal circumstances, less need to differentiate between toes 2, 3 and 4, rather than a reason why people don't need to?

  6. efuller

    efuller MVP

    That's why the study would be interesting. Is the innervation to the toes less precise because the tendons are less "precise"? In other words is it hard wired. Or, do people not bother to learn to differentiate their toes even thoug they could if they tried. I've certainly noticed that when you use the monofiliament screen on feet of diabetics there are some that can tell their toes apart and some that can't. (Of course there are those who can't tell their feet apart, but that is the point of the test.) My teen age son came to me the other day and said his foot hurt. I asked him was it here, or there. He wasn't sure and had to think about it. After, thinkig about it he could tell the difference between the locations. (It wasn't on his toes.) An interesting study.

  7. wdd

    wdd Well-Known Member

    That single muscle sure suggests block operation. Although I would imagine that the nervous control might have something to say about it. Appropriate innervation could go a way to giving independent function of the digits activated by it.

    All else being equal the factors that might promote the potential pedal pianist would be the degree of separation of the muscle into sections for each digit and or the degree to which the nerve supply was designed to activated different sections of the muscle to give a degree of independent movement and control of each digit.

    The research is getting more interested by the second.


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