How much do you know about the neuroscience of touch
Research into touch is coming out at an ever increasing rate, this is changing the way we think about the physical and psychological effect of touch. Mechanoreceptors are what informs the body about the type of touch they are receiving, there are five major types of mechanoreceptors have been identified in skin:
- Two of these are located in the superficial layers of the skin: Merkel cells and Meissner corpuscles.
- Two receptors, the Pacinian corpuscle and the Ruffini ending, are found in the subcutaneous and deeper tissue layers.
- The fifth major type of mechanoreceptor response to stroking of the hairy skin.
– ONE –
Creating a Meaning Response
Manual therapists have a direct influence on the peripheral nervous system through their touch, in addition to the physical responses to touch, the psychological affective responses can not be overstated. When the therapist is friendly, has good intentions, and the touch is socioculturally appropriate touch can be a source of safety, comfort, relief, and pleasure.
Ellingsen, D., Leknes, S., Løseth, G., Wessberg, J., & Olausson, H. (2016). The Neurobiology Shaping Affective Touch: Expectation, Motivation, and Meaning in the Multisensory Context. Frontiers in Psychology Front. Psychol.
– TWO –
Touching the Brain
The nervous system is a complex, this article will give you a better understanding of mechanotransduction (the mechanisms by which cells convert mechanical stimulus into chemical activity). There are also a few images to give you a visualization of many different mechanoreceptors including:
• Merkel cells
• Ruffini endings
• Pacinian corpuscles
• Meissner corpuscles
• Free nerve ending
Abraira, V., & Ginty, D. (2013). The Sensory Neurons of Touch. Neuron, 79(4), 618-639.
– THREE –
Gate Control Theory in the 21st Century
This article investigates the role that touch has in modulating the experience of pain, it is a 21st century look into the gate control theory. It concludes that touch induced a clear analgesic effect, likely to be mediated by a subcortical gating of the ascending nociceptive input, which in turn results in a modulation of cortical responses. This indicates to researchers that supraspinal mechanisms alone are not sufficient to mediate touch-induced analgesia.
Mancini, F., Beaumont, A., Hu, L., Haggard, P., & Iannetti, G. D. (2015). Touch inhibits subcortical and cortical nociceptive responses. Pain.
– FOUR –
Massage for Itches & Eczema?
Mechanoreceptors are what the body uses to make decisions about the type of touch they are receiving, newly discovered C-tactile afferents play a specific role in transmitting the pleasurable properties of touch. Researchers hypothesis that stimulating C-tactile afferents with massage could, provide a non-pharmacological means of treating both the physical and psychological aspects of chronic skin conditions such as itch and eczema.
Lloyd, D. M., Mcglone, F. P., & Yosipovitch, G. (2015). Somatosensory pleasure circuit: From skin to brain and back. Experimental Dermatology Exp Dermatol,24(5), 321-324.