Discriminative and affective touch: sensing and feeling

Neuron. 2014 May 21;82(4):737-55. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.05.001.


The multimodal properties of the human somatosensory system continue to be unravelled. There is mounting evidence that one of these submodalities-touch-has another dimension, providing not only its well-recognized discriminative input to the brain, but also an affective input. It has long been recognized that touch plays an important role in many forms of social communication and a number of theories have been proposed to explain observations and beliefs about the "power of touch." Here, we propose that a class of low-threshold mechanosensitive C fibers that innervate the hairy skin represent the neurobiological substrate for the affective and rewarding properties of touch.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Central Nervous System / physiology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological*
  • Emotions*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Fibers, Unmyelinated / physiology
  • Neural Conduction / physiology
  • Psychophysics
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena
  • Touch*