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The Neurobiology Shaping Affective Touch: Expectation, Motivation, and Meaning in the Multisensory Context
Harvard University, MA 02215 USA; University of Oslo, Norway.
University of Oslo, Norway.
University of Oslo, Norway.
University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
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2016 (English)In: Frontiers in Psychology, ISSN 1664-1078, E-ISSN 1664-1078, Vol. 6, no 1986Article, review/survey (Refereed) PublishedText
Abstract [en]

Inter individual touch can be a desirable reward that can both relieve negative affect and evoke strong feelings of pleasure. However, if other sensory cues indicate it is undesirable to interact with the toucher, the affective experience of the same touch may be flipped to disgust. While a broad literature has addressed, on one hand the neurophysiological basis of ascending touch pathways, and on the other hand the central neurochemistry involved in touch behaviors, investigations of how external context and internal state shapes the hedonic value of touch have only recently emerged. Here, we review the psychological and neurobiological mechanisms responsible for the integration of tactile "bottom-up" stimuli and "top-down" information into affective touch experiences. We highlight the reciprocal influences between gentle touch and contextual information, and consider how, and at which levels of neural processing, top down influences may modulate ascending touch signals. Finally, we discuss the central neurochemistry, specifically the mu-opioids and oxytocin systems, involved in affective touch processing, and how the functions of these neurotransmitters largely depend on the context and motivational state of the individual.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
FRONTIERS MEDIA SA , 2016. Vol. 6, no 1986
Keyword [en]
touch; top-down modulation; hedonics; oxytocin; opioids; social processing; placebo effect
National Category
Clinical Medicine
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-124464DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01986ISI: 000367738200001PubMedID: 26779092OAI: diva2:899809

Funding Agencies|Norwegian Research Council (FRIPRO); Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions, under the COFUND program [240553/F20]

Available from: 2016-02-02 Created: 2016-02-01 Last updated: 2016-03-03

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Olausson, Håkan
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Division of Neuro and Inflammation ScienceFaculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
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