Four Articles About The Importance of Touch

Photo Credit - Jörg Bittner Unna - CC BY 3.0

Photo Credit - Jörg Bittner Unna - CC BY 3.0

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

The neurobiology of Touch

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 Sensory Neurons of Touch

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

Touch inhibits subcortical and cortical nociceptive responses

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?

Somatosensory pleasure circuit

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.

The RMT Education Project - 'Simplifying The Complex'

Touch has a memory.
— John Keats

The RMT Education Project is an initiative that is working to promote the benefits of massage therapy to an international audience.  If you would like to learn more about massage therapy, check out 'The Massage Therapy Literature Countdown'.

The Massage Therapy Literature Countdown
 10 Articles All Massage Therapists Should Read
 9 Open Access Articles for Massage Therapists
 8 Researchers Who Are Changing Massage Therapy
 7 Books For Massage Therapists
 6 Blogs For Massage Therapists 
 5 Systematic Reviews of Massage Therapy 
 4 Articles About The Importance of Touch
 3 Bones You May Not Have Heard About
 2 Peer-reviewed  Publications for Massage Therapists
 1 Book That Will Change The Way You Think

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
— Leo Buscaglia