So, after many decades neuroscientists have finally gotten around to constructing a “femunculus,” the female version of a model that shows the amount of cortical network the brain devotes to various body parts. Until 2011 all we had was the male homunculus to marvel at …
What’s quite striking (not in this representation, but in the femunculus) is it offers up a possible explanation for why any number of people in my circle seem to own more than a small number of shoes. A great many more.
These Boots Were Made For More Than Walking
I genuinely appreciate a good pair of shoes. About once a year I splurge when an email arrives from Skechers announcing a 30% off sale and buy myself a new pair, usually a lightweight, slip-on loafer. I wear them for everything from hiking to logging to landscaping. For dress occasions, I have a pair of Josef Siebel shoes that my sister bought me for my birthday about 10 years ago. And that’s pretty much it for me sadly when it comes to shoes.
Other people (who shall go nameless) whom I know, have as many pairs of shoes as there are days in the year. And every month the number keeps growing. What in the world could be driving such behavior? I think the femunculus may provide an answer: Zapposthesia!
Zapposthesians of the World, Unite!
In some subset of the human race – especially among those artistically inclined – a well-documented condition is known as synesthesia (8 times more women than men in the UK report having it, for some reason).
UW brain scientist, Eric Chudler, over at Neuroscience for Kids, has this to say about synesthesia:
Synesthesia is a condition in which one sense (for example, hearing) is simultaneously perceived as if by one or more additional senses such as sight. Another form of synesthesia joins objects such as letters, shapes, numbers or people’s names with a sensory perception such as smell, color or flavor. The word synesthesia comes from two Greek words, syn (together) and aisthesis (perception). Therefore, synesthesia literally means “joined perception.”
Synesthesia can involve any of the senses. The most common form, colored letters and numbers, occurs when someone always sees a certain color in response to a certain letter of the alphabet or number. For example, a synesthete (a person with synesthesia) might see the word “plane” as red or the number “4” as purple. There are also synesthetes who hear sounds in response to smell, who smell in response to touch, or who feel something in response to sight. Just about any combination of the senses is possible. There are some people who possess synesthesia involving three or even more senses, but this is extremely rare.
Synesthetic perceptions are specific to each person. Different people with synesthesia almost always disagree on their perceptions. In other words, if one synesthete thinks that the letter “Q” is colored blue, another synesthete might see “Q” as orange.
Some scientists believe that synesthesia results from “crossed-wiring” in the brain. They hypothesize that in synesthetes, neurons and synapses that are “supposed” to be contained within one sensory system cross to another sensory system. It is unclear why this might happen but some researchers believe that these crossed connections are present in everyone at birth, and only later are the connections refined. Adult synesthetes may have simply retained these crossed connections from childhood.
So, what might all this have to do with Zapposthesia, which I’m defining as … orgasmic shoe-buying? Well, what do you notice when you look closely at the femunculus below?
It turns out that all the female sexual organs are located right next to the brain wiring for … the feet! Much of the way synesthesia gets its wires crossed is with brain structures in close proximity. Wires are much easier to cross when they don’t have to travel long distances (In fairness, the penis too is wired close to the feet in men as well).
How do we truly know what’s driving the shoe-buying in your life? Only a photopleysmograph knows for sure!
On another note, for a look at the latest Enchanted Loom featuring Jill Bolte Taylor, click HERE.