2018_HandFootMapping_JAP.pdf (3.42 MB)
Download file

Thermosensory micromapping of warm and cold sensitivity across glabrous and hairy skin of male and female hands and feet

Download (3.42 MB)
journal contribution
posted on 27.09.2018, 13:26 authored by Davide Filingeri, Hui Zhang, Edward A. Arens
The ability of hands and feet to convey skin thermal sensations is an important contributor to our experience of the surrounding world. Surprisingly, the detailed topographical distribution of warm and cold thermosensitivity across hands and feet has not been mapped, although sensitivity maps exist for touch and pain. Using a recently developed quantitative sensory test, we mapped warm and cold thermosensitivity of 103 skin sites over glabrous and hairy skin of hands and feet in male (M; 30.2 ± 5.8 yr) and female (F; 27.7 ± 5.1 yr) adults matched for body surface area (M: 1.77 ± 0.2 m2; F: 1.64 ± 0.1 m2; P = 0.155). Findings indicated that warm and cold thermosensitivity varies by fivefold across glabrous and hairy skin of hands and feet and that hands (warm/cold sensitivity: 1.25/2.14 vote/°C) are twice as sensitive as the feet (warm/cold sensitivity: 0.51/0.99 vote/°C). Opposite to what is known for touch and pain sensitivity, we observed a characteristic distal-to-proximal increase in thermosensitivity over both hairy and glabrous skin (i.e., from fingers and toes to body of hands and feet), and found that hairy skin is more sensitive than glabrous. Finally, we show that body surface area-matched men and women presented small differences in thermosensitivity and that these differences are constrained to glabrous skin only. Our high-density thermosensory micromapping provides the most detailed thermosensitivity maps of hands and feet in young adults available to date. These maps offer a window into peripheral and central mechanisms of thermosensory integration in humans and will help guide future developments in smart skin and sensory neuroprostheses, in wearable, energy-efficient personal comfort systems, and in sport and protective clothing.


This work was supported by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, U.S. Department of Energy, Delivering Efficient Local Thermal Amenities program under Contract DE-AR0000529.



  • Design

Published in

Journal of Applied Physiology






723 - 736


FILINGERI, D., ZHANG, H. and ARENS, E.A., 2018. Thermosensory micromapping of warm and cold sensitivity across glabrous and hairy skin of male and female hands and feet. Journal of Applied Physiology, 125 (3), pp.723-736.


© American Physiological Society


AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publisher statement

This paper was accepted for publication in the journal Journal of Applied Physiology and the definitive published version is available at https://doi.org/10.1152/japplphysiol.00158.2018.

Acceptance date


Publication date