A toe curling experience!
October 19, 2010 2:53 AM   Subscribe

Why do my toes curl when I am experiencing specific emotional/physiological stimuli?

Toe curling is associated with extreme embarrassment and sexual ecstasy. What is the cause of this reaction to two apparently completely different brain states?
posted by asok to Science & Nature (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Perhaps it's the intensity of the feeling.
posted by Solomon at 3:01 AM on October 19, 2010

For me it's intensity. And not toe curling - instead it's this stupid facial tic.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:29 AM on October 19, 2010

Best answer: Your toe-curling reflexes are interesting in themselves - the fact that in some people they go from the normal, adult pantar reflex while awake to the neonatal plantar reflex while asleep suggests to me that there is something more complicated in the relationship betweenyour brain and your toe-curling reflexes than, say, your knee jerking reflexes.

However, IANAD and IANVGAN (I am not very good at neurology).
posted by Coobeastie at 4:48 AM on October 19, 2010

Just-so speculation: maybe, like they say about the hypnic jerk, toe-curling in moments of extreme states (emotional, sexual) was mildly useful for keeping our ancestors from falling out of trees when their minds were elsewhere, and getting torn to shreds on the jungle floor.
posted by Beardman at 5:41 AM on October 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Well, they're not, actually, completely different states. Toe-curling...not so sure. But everything else you just listed is mediated by peripheral effects of the sympathetic nervous system--aka, fight-or-flight.

Fear causes a similar sensation--though your toes may not actually curl, the muscles tense.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 7:11 AM on October 19, 2010

It could be you are clenching all/most of your muscles and you're just noticing your toes.
posted by callmejay at 2:45 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

FWIW, I guessed you were prob a girl, simply because I've noticed that girls go up on their toes (balls of their feet) when excited by kissing - even the girlfriends I've had who were taller than me.

Could be a gender-linkied reflex, related to sexual response.

Or something else entirely.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:48 PM on October 19, 2010

Response by poster: I am not clenching all of my muscles, fyi.

I had come to the conclusion it might be something to do with fight or flight, but was confused as to how this would relate to extreme embarrassment. I would have thought that running away, rather than gripping hard would be the reaction. Clearly there is more to this.

Thanks for your answers!
posted by asok at 7:18 AM on October 20, 2010

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