Friday, November 17, 2023

The neuroscience of human social touch

2:00 PM

Cognition & Cognitive Neuroscience forum featuring visiting professor India Morrison, Ph.D.

Our knowledge of the neural underpinnings of affective touch has burgeoned over the past two decades, on levels from the receptor to larger-scale functional neuroanatomy of the brain. Yet we still understand very little about how these mechanisms might contribute to the role of touch in human social interaction. This talk describes ways in which specific properties of touch can be organized by the human nervous system during affiliative social interactions. In particular, our recent investigations of co-modulation between the brain and the neuropeptide oxytocin have suggested that oxytocin neuromodulation during touch-mediated social interactions is flexible and context-dependent. In humans, parietotemporal brain pathways may play a selective role in these context-sensitive processes, potentially allowing “tuning” of brain and body responses during social interactions. Such brain-hormone co-modulation during touch-mediated human social interactions allows for dynamic changes in interactants’ behavior and physiological states. These emerging lines of evidence foster a view of touch as playing a temporal role in human interaction—unfurling not just during a single social interaction but over the course of a relationship.

India Morrison

Senior Associate Professor, Ph.D.
Linköping University