Phantom Foot Thumb
June 28, 2008 12:03 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone else ever feel the presence of a phantom thumb jutting out of the side of their foot?

Since I was a kid, I've been able to create a phantom thumb sensation along the side of my foot at will. It feels like my foot takes on the appearance of a monkey foot, and I can distinctly feel the opposable toe/thumb.

Whenever I tell this to my friends, they also can feel it. Sometimes they have to hold out their hand and compare the layout of their foot to their hand before it kicks in. For most, this is disturbing.

Anyone else? Are there any references to this phenomenon in the science literature? Is this some strange vestigial evolutionary quirk? Is it some sort of body-mapping malfunction?
posted by Lownotes to Science & Nature (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I did as a kid, all the time! I hadn't even thought of this in years. I don't feel it anymore.
posted by peep at 12:18 PM on June 28, 2008

I would have to say no.
Did you maybe have an extra toe when you were a kid that got removed that your parents never told you about?
posted by greta simone at 12:19 PM on June 28, 2008

I would imagine you could 'create' the sensation of phantom limbs anywhere if you concentrate hard enough. And anyway, the bones that make up the thumb are used in the foot to make the big toe. So your big toe is actually the 'thumb' of your foot.
posted by delmoi at 12:36 PM on June 28, 2008

Can you feel your actual thumb and phantom thumb at the same time with clarity?
posted by bunnytricks at 12:50 PM on June 28, 2008

I would imagine you could 'create' the sensation of phantom limbs anywhere if you concentrate hard enough.

I can concentrate pretty damn hard, but I can't do that.
posted by grumblebee at 12:53 PM on June 28, 2008

No, but I wish I could... sounds awesome!
posted by vodkaboots at 2:19 PM on June 28, 2008

Best answer: Oh man I used to get that sensation when I was a kid... I had completely forgotten about it until your question. Man, what a random thing to think up and then forget.

I wonder how common this is?
posted by Willie0248 at 2:44 PM on June 28, 2008

This is totally weird. And no.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 3:05 PM on June 28, 2008

Response by poster: Re: bunnytricks

I can feel both my actual thumbs and the phantom foot thumbs with clarity.
posted by Lownotes at 3:06 PM on June 28, 2008

I thought the big toe was the foot's thumb.
posted by humannaire at 3:41 PM on June 28, 2008

Best answer: Oh. Wait. You mean there.

posted by humannaire at 3:42 PM on June 28, 2008

Yes, when I was a kid, almost certainly as a result of my overactive imagination.
posted by pullayup at 4:13 PM on June 28, 2008

In the current issue of The New Yorker, there's an Annals of Medicine article on this very subject! The Itch: Its mysterious power may be a clue to a new theory about brains and bodies, by Atul Gawande.
posted by Carol Anne at 4:55 PM on June 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Dammit, now my invisible toe itches.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:32 PM on June 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

"You are all bewilderingly, utterly, unspeakably, insane." -phrontist

(I'm quoting the best answer from a previous thread that asked: Does anybody else get the urge to bite something (like say, an arm) every once in a while? )

I have no biting urges or phantom thumbs. But I did just spend 5 minutes with my bare foot up on the coffee table staring at it.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:52 PM on June 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

This RadioLab episode may be of interest.
posted by Durin's Bane at 7:27 PM on June 28, 2008

Best answer: Not before I read this question, I didn't. Thanks.
posted by dilettante at 7:51 PM on June 28, 2008

selfmedicating: dude, I came in here to post my trademark line, and you have to steal my thunder. :-)

To answer the question: No, but man, that's interesting.
posted by phrontist at 8:49 PM on June 28, 2008

I have never experienced this. But I did just spend the last few minutes trying. Still nothing, though.
posted by lilac girl at 10:25 PM on June 28, 2008

Best answer: I have! And this question triggered the feeling, although it's pretty mild.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 3:56 AM on June 29, 2008

Best answer: Yes! I've had this feeling for years. It's an annoying feeling because it comes with the urge to wrap it around something.

I can't contribute any information about why it happens, but you can be happy to know that you've made someone feel a little bit less like a freak.

This is why I love MeFi.
posted by fonetik at 3:26 AM on June 30, 2008

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