Nouvel Article dans Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews,
What are C-tactile afferents and how do they relate to “affective touch”?
Annett Schirmer, Ilona Croy, Rochelle Ackerley
Since their initial discovery in cats, low-threshold C-fiber mechanoreceptors have become a central interest of scientists studying the affective aspects of touch. Their pursuit in humans, here termed C-tactile (CT) afferents, has led to the establishment of a research field referred to as “affective touch”, which is differentiated from “discriminative touch”. Presently, we review these developments based on an automated semantic analysis of more than 1000 published abstracts as well as empirical evidence and the solicited opinions of leading experts in the field. Our review provides a historical perspective and update of CT research, it reflects on the meaning of “affective touch”, and discusses how current insights challenge established views on the relation between CTs and affective touch. We conclude that CTs support gentle, affective touch, but that not every affective touch experience relies on CTs or must necessarily be pleasant. Moreover, we speculate that currently underappreciated aspects of CT signaling will prove relevant for the manner in which these unique fibers support how humans connect both physically and emotionally.