Pleasant touch sensations may begin with neural coding in the periphery by specific afferents. We found that during soft brush stroking, low-threshold unmyelinated mechanoreceptors (C-tactile), but not myelinated afferents, responded most vigorously at intermediate brushing velocities (1−10 cm s−1), which were perceived by subjects as being the most pleasant. Our results indicate that C-tactile afferents constitute a privileged peripheral pathway for pleasant tactile stimulation that is likely to signal affiliative social body contact.
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We thank Å. Vallbo, U. Norrsell and M.C. Bushnell for kindly reading the manuscript and offering advice. We also thank K. Göthner, M. Evert and J. Lindholm for technical assistance. This work was supported by the Swedish Research Council, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Unilever and the Wenner-Gren foundation.
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Löken, L., Wessberg, J., Morrison, I. et al. Coding of pleasant touch by unmyelinated afferents in humans. Nat Neurosci 12, 547–548 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.2312
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