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Positive Neuroscience$
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Joshua D. Greene, India Morrison, and Martin E. P. Seligman

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199977925

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199977925.001.0001

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Affective and Social Touch

Affective and Social Touch

(p.7) 1 Affective and Social Touch
Positive Neuroscience

India Morrison

Oxford University Press

A crucial question for the growing field of affective touch neuroscience is: Could affective touch be a special kind of touch, complete with its own neural mechanisms? This chapter summarizes recent research in psychology and neuroscience relevant to this question. If affective touch really is special, we would expect it to have particular effects on social behavior, which might even be underpinned by distinct neural pathways not shared by other kinds of touch. Findings from developmental and social psychology suggest that touch in social interactions does indeed influence feelings and evaluations. On the neural level, evidence that affective touch may indeed rely on neural pathways—distinct from other kinds of touch information—is provided by the recent discovery of a special type of nerve in mammalian skin, the C tactile afferent. Neuroimaging research also points to distinct networks for affective touch. The chapter concludes with the proposition that affective touch is not just nice for its own sake but also does something. Functional roles of affective touch may be in strengthening and maintaining social bonds, and possibly in buffering the autonomic nervous system effects of minor, day-to-day stressors.

Keywords:   tactile C afferent, CT afferent, allogrooming, insula, somatosensory cortex

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