Somatosensory system; touch : Physiology and Neuronal Correlates of Discriminative and Affective Touch

University essay from Högskolan i Skövde/Institutionen för biovetenskap


This essay is about the somatosensory system, which is divided into different kinds of touch. Described briefly are the proprioceptive touch, which is transported to the brain via A-alfa fibers and transmits information about e. g. limb position and movement. The cutaneous touch is the main focus and it is divided into discriminative touch and affective touch. The first corresponds to stimuli such as vibration and pressure and is transported via A-beta axons. The second, affective touch, corresponds to e.g. painful and pleasant stimuli which are transported to the brain via A-delta and C-fibers. The aim of the essay is to give an overview of the sense of touch, by doing a literature search, including a discussion of relevant neuronal correlates focusing particularly on affective touch. Moreover, the physiological aspects of touch will be presented. The sources that are used are review and original articles taken from databases such as ScienceDirect, and some articles send by the author. Some books have also been used to find more general knowledge. The conclusion for the essay is that touch is important for humans to function in everyday life. Additional, a specific receptor called C- tactile (CT) is identified to correspond to gentle touch and is suggested to have a vital role for humans in maintaining and forming social bounds. Moreover, discriminative touch is associated with activation in the primary and secondary somatosensory cortex, whereas affective touch seems to be associated with activity in the orbitofrontal cortex, cingulate cortex and the insula cortex, as well as the prefrontal cortex, which is suggested to be activated during interpersonal touch. Further, the sense touch needs to be more researched in order to understand its functions and benefits deeper.

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