A Role for Touch in Shaping Self – and Dissolving Self
20.09.2023 12.00 – 13.00 at Tampereen University, Pinni B -building, SimSpace B2031-2032
Research into the sense of touch has focussed mainly on touch receptors found in the fingertips (mechanoreceptors) where information is conveyed to somatosensory areas of the brain by fast-conducting myelinated nerve fibres (A-β) enabling this information to be processed in ‘real-time’ – an important factor when handling objects or tools. However, recent research in humans has found that some skin mechanosensory nerves send ‘feel good’ signals to the brain when activated by gentle caressing touch, and that this kind of touch may be all-important in developing a healthy ‘social brain’, sustaining human relationships, and controlling stress. A defining feature of these nerves is that they are unmyelinated c-fibres, called c-tactile afferents (CT), and are hypothesised to provide the neurobiological substrate for affective touch.
This talk will describe research that over the past 20 years has characterised the structure and function of CTs using psychophysical measures, electrophysiological recordings, functional neuroimaging, psychopharmacology, behavioural assays, and measures of stress hormones (animal and human). These data provide support for the functional role of a body-based emotional touch system – one that underpins the pleasurable aspects of nurturing care between a mother and her infant, the reassuring hug from a friend in times of need, the impact of social contact on the brain and the body’s stress regulatory systems, and possibly the neurodevelopmental basis for ‘self’.
The hands ‘touch’ – the body ‘feels’…….