The Sense of Touch : Physiology and Neural Correlates of Affective Touch and its Role in Subjective Wellbeing

University essay from Högskolan i Skövde/Institutionen för biovetenskap

Abstract: The somatosensory system concerns the sense of touch. It is sectioned into various kinds of touch, such as the proprioceptive sense, providing information of sense of self and position of limbs, and the cutaneous sense, informing of the modalities of touching or being touched. The cutaneous sense is further divided into discriminative touch and affective touch. Discriminative touch is an exteroceptive sense of touch that responds to stimuli of pressure and vibration, and affective touch is an interoceptive sense of touch that corresponds to e.g. pleasant and painful stimuli, communicating information to the brain through A-delta and C-fibers. Recent studies investigates affective touch to have emotional affect on the subjective experience of touch, affecting subjective wellbeing. The aim of this thesis is to examine the sense of touch and its relevant neural correlates, focusing on affective touch and its role in subjective wellbeing and social relations. A presentation of physiological and neural aspects of touch will be held as well as a description of subjective wellbeing. The conclusion for this thesis is that affective touch appears to activate brain areas of orbitofrontal cortex, frontal polar cortice, prefrontal cortex and insula cortex, which are brain areas processing subjective wellbeing, e.g. evaluating positive and negative effect and processing emotional information and behavior. Examining correlations between affective touch and positive affect, negative affect, oxytocin release, social relations and affiliative behavior shows influence from affective touch on subjective wellbeing. A discussion of the current findings is provided, including directions for future research.

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