The Ecology of Humans (17-3) Skin and Mind-Brain

Skin and Mind-Brain

We do not experience our body as a set of fragmented parts, but rather as a single entity. ~ Swedish neurobiologist Valeria Petkova

The skin acts as the spatial map of the self, instrumental in proprioception: the physical sense of self. The mind-brain delineates self via nerves, mapping body parts from the skin, muscles, and bones, which are also nerve rich. This sensory homunculus is how the mind-brain separates functionality and pinpoints bodily locations.

Phantom limb syndrome, where a person continues to feel that a missing limb is still there, exemplifies this mental mapping. Phantom limb syndrome is something of a misnomer, as the sensations also occur with various body parts, including breasts, eyes, teeth, and even internal organs.

The skin acts as a revealing surface of the mind at times. There are several skin responses, such as blushing, paling, goose bumps, sweating, chills, and clamminess, that reflect mental states.

The skin is an advertisement of health throughout the body. Healthy circulation renders a pink, warm complexion. An unhappy liver yellows the skin and makes it clammy. Faulty diet paints the skin as oily or dry. Chronic anxiety and exhaustion darken the skin under the eyes. Pimples, boils, cysts, and rashes indicate chronic mental anguish and/or physical disorder.

Our intelligence is a distributed, integrated system, with the mind-brain being headquarters, but with innumerable branch offices. Glia cells are distributed throughout the body and perform localized processing. This includes skin responses.