A1 Journal article – refereed
Neural correlates of gentle skin stroking in early infancy

List of Authors: Jetro J.Tuulari, Noora M.Scheinin, Satu Lehtola, Harri Merisaari, Jani Saunavaara, Riitta Parkkola, Isac Sehlstedt, Linnea Karlsson, Hasse Karlsson, Malin Björnsdotter
Publisher: Elsevier
Publication year: 2017
Journal: Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience
Volume number: 35
Number of pages: 6
ISSN: 1878-9293
eISSN: 1878-9307


Physical expressions of affection play a foundational role in early
brain development, but the neural correlates of affective touch
processing in infancy remain unclear. We examined brain responses to
gentle skin stroking, a type of tactile stimulus associated with
affectionate touch, in young infants. Thirteen term-born infants aged
11–36 days, recruited through the FinnBrain Birth Cohort Study, were
included in the study. Soft brush strokes, which activate brain regions
linked to somatosensory as well as socio-affective processing in
children and adults, were applied to the skin of the right leg during
functional magnetic resonance imaging. We examined infant brain
responses in two regions-of-interest (ROIs) known to process gentle skin
stroking – the postcentral gyrus and posterior insular cortex – and
found significant responses in both ROIs. These results suggest that the
neonate brain is responsive to gentle skin stroking within the first
weeks of age, and that regions linked to primary somatosensory as well
as socio-affective processing are activated. Our findings support the
notion that social touch may play an important role in early life
sensory processing. Future research will elucidate the significance of
these findings for human brain development.

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Last updated on 2019-20-07 at 11:12