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Curr Biol. 2018 Dec 17;28(24):R1380-R1381. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.11.014.

Stroking modulates noxious-evoked brain activity in human infants.

Author information

1
Department of Paediatrics, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX3 9DU, UK.
2
School of Life Sciences, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2UH, UK.
3
Department of Natural Sciences and Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, L3 3AF, UK.
4
Department of Natural Sciences and Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, L3 3AF, UK; Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, L69 3BX, UK.
5
Department of Paediatrics, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX3 9DU, UK. Electronic address: Rebeccah.slater@paediatrics.ox.ac.uk.

Abstract

A subclass of C fibre sensory neurons found in hairy skin are activated by gentle touch [1] and respond optimally to stroking at ∼1-10 cm/s, serving a protective function by promoting affiliative behaviours. In adult humans, stimulation of these C-tactile (CT) afferents is pleasant, and can reduce pain perception [2]. Touch-based techniques, such as infant massage and kangaroo care, are designed to comfort infants during procedures, and a modest reduction in pain-related behavioural and physiological responses has been observed in some studies [3]. Here, we investigated whether touch can reduce noxious-evoked brain activity. We demonstrate that stroking (at 3 cm/s) prior to an experimental noxious stimulus or clinical heel lance can attenuate noxious-evoked brain activity in infants. CT fibres may represent a biological target for non-pharmacological interventions that modulate pain in early life.

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