Vibrissa non grata

snc10047Vibrissae (Wikipedia link) are a feature of all mammals. They are much longer and thicker in nocturnal animals like cats or aquatic mammals like walruses and hippopatomi. They perform an important sensory function in these animals. Ours are tucked away, unused and vestigial. They are very sensitive, and probably are as sensitive as a cat’s or walruses. I bet if you that if I let these bad boys grow to, oh, about three inches -I could detect textures, quantity, and moisture with my eyes shut.

sensory homunculus

sensory homunculus

The image (from Natural History Museum of London) is of the sensory homunculus -a graphical representation of the proportion of the brain taken up by sensation from the various body parts. The brain is plastic -meaning malleable and I am willing to bet that with effort, time, and growth, my vibrissae could be as acutely sensitive as the palm of my hand. 

But here’s the problem -I have very little control over my facial hair. Any mention of growing a mustache or a soul patch brings threats. My better half is always clipping away my proud and long eyebrow hairs while I sleep -I even have a long blond one growing off my right eyebrow patch that grows long enough to tickle my cheek of which I am particularly proud and it has gone missing last week! My vibrissae become a topic of conversation whenever they grow long enough to do any sensory detection. 

I think I’ll have to gel them back in the mornings to keep them hidden until they grow long enough. I might be able to take the shortcut of gluing on extensions and then tucking them back into my nasal passages when I’m not training my vibrissae. 

Will keep you posted.

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