We’re making a movie

More than seven years ago, I listened to a video from a student in my online course on the neurobiology of everyday life. I couldn’t believe my ears. I was certain that the speaker was mistaken, confused. What she spoke of was an impossibility. But I was the one who was mistaken.

That fateful day was the first time I met Kim. Kim said she had no sense of pain or touch or temperature. But no one lacks all of those senses. Or no one did until Kim.

You may have heard of people, such as Ashlyn Blocker, who do not feel pain or temperature. There are some hundreds of people with Congenital (from birth) Insensitivity to Pain. In 2016, we learned that there are a small number of people – probably less than twenty – who do not feel touch, vibration or proprioception (position of the body). [Read Brian Resnick’s excellent article on several such individuals.] But no one who lacks both of these categories – pain and temperature on one hand and touch, vibration and proprioception on the other – has ever been known.

Kim changes all that. She has no somatic sense of the body. Initially I couldn’t understand how Kim went through a day without physical feeling. I couldn’t understand how she survived baby-hood. Now I do and I am eager to tell you what I have learned.

When I asked Kim if she felt embodied, she never hesitated. Yes. Years later, in experiments conducted in the Birmingham, England with Jonathan Cole and Chris Miall, we found experimental evidence to confirm that Kim has an unconscious sense of her body. Embodiment is so much more than touch. It is way too important to depend on one sense, even a sense that has seemingly come through for 100% of humans minus one.

In these days of Covid, we think touch is the thing we miss. My experience with Kim suggests otherwise.

Kim and I are telling Kim’s story in several ways. Kim is the topic of several scientific journal articles already and several more to come. Secondly I am writing a book about our journey together. And finally, Sara Serritella and Kathleen Ferraro are working with Kim and me to make More Than A Feeling, a documentary about Kim.

Watch the trailer for MTAF and send the link to your friends. Feed the buzz (one of Kim’s favorite words by the way along with pizzazz).


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