The social touch hypothesis proposes that C-tactile fibers form a privileged pathway underlying social touch. The pleasantness percept has long been related to a slow, caress-like touch. Here, Case and colleagues propose that deep pressure constitutes another important form of social touch. Their results suggest that the brain activity recorded during deep pressure is comparable to the one elicited by classic CT-optimal stroking, involving S2, SMG and insula. Thus, deep pressure (such as the one experiences in hugs and massages) may constitute another social touch pathway signalling the close proximity of conspecifics.
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Case LK, Liljencrantz J, McCall MV, Bradson M, Necaise A, Tubbs J, Olausson H, Wang B, Bushnell MC (2021). Pleasant deep pressure: expanding the social touch hypothesis. Neuroscience, in press.