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      Dissociable sources of erogeneity in social touch: Imagining and perceiving C-Tactile optimal touch in erogenous zones

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          Abstract

          Previous research points to two major hypotheses regarding the mechanisms by which touch can be experienced as erotogenic. The first concerns the body part to which touch is applied (erogenous zones) and the second the modality of touch (sensual touch optimal in activating C Tactile afferents). In this study, we explored for the first time the relation between those two mechanisms in actual and imagined social touch. In a first experiment, we randomly assigned “Giver” and “Receiver” roles within 19 romantic couples (20 females, 18 males, age 32.34 ± 8.71SD years) and asked the “Giver” to apply CT-optimal (3 cm/s) vs. CT-suboptimal (18 cm/s) touch on an erogenous (neck) vs. non-erogenous zone (forehead) of their partner. We then obtained ratings of pleasantness and sexual arousal from both “Receivers” and “Givers”. In a second experiment, 32 healthy females (age 25.16 ± 5.91SD years) were asked to imagine CT-optimal vs. CT-suboptimal stimulation (stroking vs. patting) and velocity (3 cm/s vs. 18 cm/s) on different erogenous vs. non-erogenous zones and rate pleasantness. While both erogenous body part and CT-optimal, sensual touch were found to increase pleasant and erotic sensations, the results showed a lack of an interaction. Furthermore, pleasantness was induced by mere imagination of touch without any tactile stimulation, and touch that was sexually arousing for the receiver was rated as more sexually arousing for the giver as well, pointing to top-down, learned expectations of sensory pleasure and erogeneity. Taken together, these studies provide the first direct evidence that while both the body location to which touch is applied and the mode of touch contribute to pleasant and erotic sensations, these two factors appear to mediate subjective pleasantness and erogeneity by, at least partly, independent mechanisms.

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          Most cited references 25

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          Interoception: the sense of the physiological condition of the body.

          Converging evidence indicates that primates have a distinct cortical image of homeostatic afferent activity that reflects all aspects of the physiological condition of all tissues of the body. This interoceptive system, associated with autonomic motor control, is distinct from the exteroceptive system (cutaneous mechanoreception and proprioception) that guides somatic motor activity. The primary interoceptive representation in the dorsal posterior insula engenders distinct highly resolved feelings from the body that include pain, temperature, itch, sensual touch, muscular and visceral sensations, vasomotor activity, hunger, thirst, and 'air hunger'. In humans, a meta-representation of the primary interoceptive activity is engendered in the right anterior insula, which seems to provide the basis for the subjective image of the material self as a feeling (sentient) entity, that is, emotional awareness.
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            Touch communicates distinct emotions.

            The study of emotional signaling has focused almost exclusively on the face and voice. In 2 studies, the authors investigated whether people can identify emotions from the experience of being touched by a stranger on the arm (without seeing the touch). In the 3rd study, they investigated whether observers can identify emotions from watching someone being touched on the arm. Two kinds of evidence suggest that humans can communicate numerous emotions with touch. First, participants in the United States (Study 1) and Spain (Study 2) could decode anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, and sympathy via touch at much-better-than-chance levels. Second, fine-grained coding documented specific touch behaviors associated with different emotions. In Study 3, the authors provide evidence that participants can accurately decode distinct emotions by merely watching others communicate via touch. The findings are discussed in terms of their contributions to affective science and the evolution of altruism and cooperation. (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved
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              The skin as a social organ.

              In general, social neuroscience research tends to focus on visual and auditory channels as routes for social information. However, because the skin is the site of events and processes crucial to the way we think about, feel about, and interact with one another, touch can mediate social perceptions in various ways. This review situates cutaneous perception within a social neuroscience framework by discussing evidence for considering touch (and to some extent pain) as a channel for social information. Social information conveys features of individuals or their interactions that have potential bearing on future interactions, and attendant mental and emotional states. Here, we discuss evidence for an affective dimension of touch and explore its wider implications for the exchange of social information. We consider three important roles for this affective dimension of the cutaneous senses in the transmission and processing of social information: first, through affiliative behavior and communication; second, via affective processing in skin-brain pathways; and third, as a basis for intersubjective representation.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Data curationRole: Formal analysisRole: InvestigationRole: MethodologyRole: Writing – original draft
                Role: Data curationRole: Formal analysisRole: InvestigationRole: MethodologyRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Formal analysisRole: InvestigationRole: MethodologyRole: ResourcesRole: SupervisionRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Funding acquisitionRole: InvestigationRole: MethodologyRole: SupervisionRole: ValidationRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: Editor
                Journal
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                plos
                plosone
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA )
                1932-6203
                24 August 2018
                2018
                : 13
                : 8
                Affiliations
                [1 ] University College London, Research Department of Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology, London, United Kingdom
                [2 ] Centre for Brain Science, Department of Psychology, University of Essex, Colchester, United Kingdom
                [3 ] Department of Psychology, Ludwig-Maximillians University, Munich, Germany
                University of Chicago, UNITED STATES
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Article
                PONE-D-18-08930
                10.1371/journal.pone.0203039
                6108496
                30142185
                © 2018 Panagiotopoulou et al

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Figures: 3, Tables: 0, Pages: 13
                Product
                Funding
                Funded by: funder-id http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/501100000781, European Research Council;
                Award ID: ERC-2012-STG GA313755
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: funder-id http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/501100000269, Economic and Social Research Council;
                Award ID: Scholarship
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: Neuropsychoanalysis Fund (NPSA)
                Award ID: Scholarship
                Award Recipient :
                The work was funded by the European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant ERC-2012-STG GA313755 ( https://erc.europa.eu/funding/starting-grants) to AF and a PhD studentship to E.P., co-funded by Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Neuropsychoanalysis Fund (NPSA): ( http://www.esrc.ac.uk/skills-and-careers/studentships/ https://npsa-association.org). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
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