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Papers of the Week

Papers: 13 Jun 2020 - 19 Jun 2020


Neurosci Insights


Affective Touch: The Enigmatic Spinal Pathway of the C-Tactile Afferent.


Marshall AG, McGlone FP
Neurosci Insights. 2020; 15:2633105520925072.
PMID: 32529186.


C-tactile afferents are hypothesized to form a distinct peripheral channel that encodes the affective nature of touch. Prevailing views indicate they project, as with other unmyelinated afferents, in lamina I-spinothalamic pathways that relay homeostatically relevant information from the body toward cortical regions involved in interoceptive processing. However, in a recent study, we found that spinothalamic ablation in humans, while profoundly impairing the canonical spinothalamic modalities of pain, temperature, and itch, had no effect on benchmark psychophysical affective touch metrics. These novel findings appear to indicate that perceptual judgments about the affective nature of touch pleasantness do not depend on the integrity of the lamina I-spinothalamic tract. In this commentary, we further discuss the implications of these unexpected findings. Intuitively, they suggest that signaling of emotionally relevant C-tactile mediated touch occurs in an alternative ascending pathway. However, we also argue that the deficits seen following interruption of a putative C-tactile lamina I-spinothalamic relay might be barely perceptible-a feature that would underline the importance of the C-tactile afferent in neurodevelopment.