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Exp Brain Res. 2010 Dec;207(3-4):149-55. doi: 10.1007/s00221-010-2408-y. Epub 2010 Oct 21.

Feeling good: on the role of C fiber mediated touch in interoception.

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Institute for Neuroscience and Physiology, University of Gothenburg, Göteborg, Sweden.


The human skin is innervated by a network of thin, slow-conducting afferent (C and Aδ) fibers, transmitting a diverse range of information. Classically, these fibers are described as thermo-, noci- or chemoreceptive, whereas mechanoreception is attributed exclusively to thick, fast-conducting (Aβ) afferents. A growing body of evidence, however, supports the notion that C tactile afferents comprise a second anatomically and functionally distinct system signaling touch in humans. This review discusses established as well as recent findings which highlight fundamental differences in peripheral and central information coding and processing between Aβ and C mechanoreception. We conclude that from the skin through the brain, C touch shares more characteristics with interoceptive modalities (e.g. pain, temperature, and itch) than exteroceptive Aβ touch, vision or hearing. In this light, we discuss the motivational-affective role of C touch as an integral part of a thin-fiber afferent homeostatic network for the maintenance of physical and social well-being.

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