How well your fingers and ears work may be somewhat hereditary, new research suggests.
Touch and hearing are usually thought of as separate senses. A recent study of identical twins suggests that they have more in common than is generally thought and may share a genetic basis.
Hearing is so crucial to daily life that people usually notice when hearing loss is occurring. This is one reason that hearing impairments have been so extensively studied. There are 60 known mutations that impair hearing and another 60 that are suspected of doing so.
The researchers also found a connection between the subjects' hearing and touch abilities--the better an individual's hearing, the better was their sense of touch, while poor hearing often was accompanied by a poor sense of touch.
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But defects in touch tend to be more subtle and may go unnoticed. There have been comparatively few studies on them and there are no known mutations that cause touch insensitivity.
In the current study, researchers at the Max Delbruck Center of Molecular Medicine in Berlin and colleagues at medical schools in Germany and Spain sought to determine whether touch sensitivity has a genetic component--can be inherited. They tested the touch and hearing abilities of identical twins, who have identical sets of genes. And they also tested these abilities in a wider group of people including fraternal twins, other family members and unrelated individuals.