March 2, 2012
The Unique Physiology of Our Hands
When we look down at our hands, we see five separate fingers, right? One would assume that those fingers are capable of working on their own, separately. Turns out that assumption is wrong! Our brain considers our hand as a whole, not each finger individually. It is nearly impossible to move certain fingers without moving others. Go back seven to nine million years, our thumbs were one of the main things that distinguished our ancestors from the apes. But some fingers hold more importance over others. For example, our thumbs. Without our thumbs our hands would feel half useless because we wouldn't be able to pick up, hold, or do most of the things we do. But this excessive use of our thumbs have some bad side effects too. The most common side effect is arthritis at the base of the thumb. A very common disorder especially for middle aged working people in this country. What really interested me about this article was the way our brain interprets our hand; as one whole unit. "If we’re reaching for a water bottle, the hand takes on a generic open cupping shape, refining the curvature and angle of the gesture as the hand closes in on the bottle." I never really thought about this specific action before reading this article. But now that I think about, that's really interesting. This unique physiology of our hands has developed over millions of years. And even though our hands structure isn't perfect, it's still pretty amazing.