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Pleasant human touch is represented in pregenual anterior cingulate cortex
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Nursing. Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Surgical and Perioperative Sciences, Anaesthesiology.
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Integrative Medical Biology (IMB), Physiology.
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Nursing.
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Surgical and Perioperative Sciences, Anaesthesiology.
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2012 (English)In: NeuroImage, ISSN 1053-8119, E-ISSN 1095-9572, Vol. 59, no 4, 3427-3432 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Touch massage (TM) is a form of pleasant touch stimulation used as treatment in clinical settings and found to improve well-being and decrease anxiety, stress, and pain. Emotional responses reported during and after TM have been studied, but the underlying mechanisms are still largely unexplored. In this study, we used functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) to test the hypothesis that the combination of human touch (i.e. skin-to-skin contact) with movement is eliciting a specific response in brain areas coding for pleasant sensations. The design included four different touch conditions; human touch with or without movement and rubber glove with or without movement. Force (2.5N) and velocity (1.5cm/s) were held constant across conditions. The pleasantness of the four different touch stimulations was rated on a visual analog scale (VAS-scale) and human touch was rated as most pleasant, particularly in combination with movement. The fMRI results revealed that TM stimulation most strongly activated the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex (pgACC). These results are consistent with findings showing pgACC activation during various rewarding pleasant stimulations. This area is also known to be activated by both opioid analgesia and placebo. Together with these prior results, our finding furthers the understanding of the basis for positive TM treatment effects.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2012. Vol. 59, no 4, 3427-3432 p.
Keyword [en]
Brain, Human touch, Massage, Pregenual anterior cingulate cortex, fMRI, Pleasantness
National Category
Neurology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-51173DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.11.013PubMedID: 22100768OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-51173DiVA: diva2:476368
Available from: 2012-01-12 Created: 2012-01-12 Last updated: 2017-12-08Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Emotional and physiological responses to touch massage
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Emotional and physiological responses to touch massage
2012 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Background: Clinical findings indicate that touch massage has the ability to induce positive emotions and influence stress responses. However, little is known about mechanisms that can explain observed responses.

Aim: To understand mechanisms behind observed emotional and physiological responses during and after touch massage.

Methods: This thesis is based upon healthy volunteers in Studies I, II, IV and patients undergone aortic surgery in Study III. Study I had a crossover design, participants served as their own controls. After randomization they received TM on one occasion and the other occasion served as control. Heart rate variability (HRV), heart rate (HR) saliva cortisol concentration, glucose, insulin in serum and extracellular (ECV) levels of glucose, lactate, glycerol and pyruvat were measured before, during and after TM/control. In study II, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used in order to measure brain activity during TM movement. The study design included four different touch stimulations, human touch with movement (TM movement) human stationary touch and rubber glove with or without movement. Force (2.5 N) and velocity (1.5 cm/s) were held constant across conditions. The pleasantness of the four different touch stimulations was rated on a visual analog scale (VAS-scale). Study III had a randomized controlled design. The intervention group received TM and the control group rested. HRV, cortisol, glucose, insulin in serum, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, respiratory frequency and anxiety levels were measured before, during and after TM/control. In study IV participants were interviewed about experiences after TM and the text was analyzed in by qualitative content analyze.

Results:

Study I. TM reduced the stress response as indicated by decreased heart rate and decreased activity in the sympathetic nervous system, followed by a compensatory decrease in parasympathetic nervous activity in order to maintain balance. Cortisol and insulin levels decreased significantly after intervention, while serum glucose levels remained stable. A similar, though less prominent, pattern was seen during the control session. There were no significant differences in ECV concentrations of analyzed substances.

Study II. Human moving touch (TM movement) was significantly rated as the most pleasant touch stimulation. The fMRI results revealed that human moving touch (TM movement) most strongly activated the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex (pgACC).

Study III. Selfrated anxiety levels significantly decreased in the patient group that received TM compared with control group. There were no significant differences in physiological stress-related outcome parameters between patients who received touch massage and controls.

Study IV. In this study participants talked about the experience of TM in terms of rewards. Expressions like need, desire, pleasure and conditioning could be linked with a theoretical model of reward. Four different categories were identified as wanting, liking, learning and responding.

In conclusion: Results from these studies indicate that receiving TM is experienced as rewarding. Touch massage movement activates a brain area involved in coding of rewarding pleasant stimulations. TM decreases anxiety and dampens the stress response by a decreased activation of the sympathetic nervous activity. Our results indicate that TM is a caring intervention that can be used to induce pleasure, decrease anxiety and stress in the receiver.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå Universitet, 2012. 60 p.
Series
Umeå University medical dissertations, ISSN 0346-6612 ; 1531
Keyword
Touch, touch massage, emotion, anxiety, autonomic nervous sytem, brain, stress
National Category
Other Medical Sciences
Research subject
Caring Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-61492 (URN)978-91-7459-524-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2012-12-07, Aulan, Vårdvetarhuset, Umeå Universitet, Umeå, 09:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2012-11-16 Created: 2012-11-15 Last updated: 2012-11-16Bibliographically approved

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Lindgren, LenitaWestling, GöranBrulin, ChristineLehtipalo, StefanAndersson, MicaelNyberg, Lars

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