Quantitative cutaneous sensory testing in children and adolescents
John P. Conomy, M.D.
Department of Neurology
Karen L. Barnes, Ph.D.
Division of Research
Robert P. Cruse, D.O.
Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine
Every time we conceive and express quality as quantity our knowledge increases and along with it, our powers of thinking and acting correctly.Constantine Tsatsos1
A fundamental consideration of every branch of science is the measurement of natural phenomena. Indeed, much of the history of science is inseparable from the history of measurement and quantitation.2 It has been the goal of the quantitative scientific method since its inception by the Greeks that natural phenomena could be reduced, abstracted, and numerically designated so they could be understood. The applications of this method of abstraction and numerical designation are an implied bulwark of contemporary biomedical science. In the clinical neurosciences, quantitative measurement of the functions of the special senses has had a long and arduous development. Numerical measurement of sensation has been comfortably achieved in some areas, particularly vision and hearing. It is commonplace in the modern era to express visual acuity by numeric designations and to map the visual fields with precisely-sized objects in terms of degrees of arc, and to designate hearing function in decibels. The skin senses, rich and varied as they are, have eluded numeric designation, and much of what we understand about cutaneous sensation is left to the amplification and vagaries of descriptive language. We have not yet developed reliable scientific methods of measuring such phenomena as touch, light pressure, cutaneous pain, or thermal sensibility, much less more complex cutaneous phenomena, such as rubbing, tickling, wetness, itching, and other compound sensations that are daily human experiences.
Attempts at . . .