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Autistic traits modulate cortical responses to affective but not discriminative touch

Haggarty, CJ, Malinowski, P, McGlone, FP and Walker, SC Autistic traits modulate cortical responses to affective but not discriminative touch. European Journal of Neuroscience. ISSN 0953-816X (Accepted)

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Abstract

The sense of touch is primarily considered a discriminative and exteroceptive sense, facilitating the detection, manipulation and exploration of objects, via an array of low threshold mechanoreceptors and fast conducting Aβ afferents. However, a class of unmyelinated, low threshold mechanoreceptors identified in the hairy skin of mammals have been proposed to constitute a second, anatomically distinct system coding the affective qualities of touch. Unlike Aβs, which increase their firing rate linearly with the velocity of a stimulus moving across their receptive field, the response of these C-tactile afferents (CTs) is described by an inverted ‘U’ curve fit, responding optimally to a skin temperature stimulus moving at between 1-10cm/s. Given the distinct velocity tuning of these fast and slow touch fibres, here we used ERPs to compare the time course of neural responses to 1st (fast) and 2nd (slow) touch systems. We identified a higher amplitude P300 in response to fast, Aβ targeted, versus slow CT-targeted, stroking touch. In contrast, we identified a previously described, Cfibre specific, ultra-late-potential (ULP) associated with CT-targeted input. Of special note as regards the function of CTs is that the amplitude of the ULP was negatively correlated with self-reported levels of autistic traits, which is consistent with the hypothesised affective and social significance of this response. Taken together these findings provide further support for distinct discriminative and affective touch systems and suggests the temporal resolution of EEG provides an as yet underutilised tool for exploring individual differences in response sensitivity to CT targeted touch.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 1109 Neurosciences, 1702 Cognitive Sciences, 1701 Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Divisions: Psychology (new Sep 2019)
Publisher: Wiley
Date Deposited: 04 Dec 2019 12:13
Last Modified: 04 Dec 2019 12:15
DOI or Identification number: 10.1111/EJN.14637
URI: http://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/11841

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