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The anticipation and perception of affective touch in women with and recovered from Anorexia Nervosa

Crucianelli, L; Demartini, B; Goeta, D; Nisticò, V; Saramandi, A; Bertelli, S; Todisco, P; ... Fotopoulou, A; + view all (2020) The anticipation and perception of affective touch in women with and recovered from Anorexia Nervosa. BioRxiv: Cold Spring Harbor, NY, USA. Green open access

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Abstract

Disruptions in reward processing and anhedonia have long being considered as possible contributors to the aetiology and maintenance of Anorexia nervosa (AN). Recently, interoceptive deficits have also been observed in AN, including reduced tactile pleasure. However, the extent to which this tactile anhedonia is specifically liked to an impairment in a specialized, interoceptive C tactile system originating at the periphery, or a more top-down mechanism in the processing of pleasant tactile stimuli remains debated. Here, we investigated two related hypotheses. First, we examined whether the differences, between patients with AN and healthy controls in the perception of pleasantness of touch stimuli delivered in a CT-optimal manner versus a CT non-optimal manner would also be observed in patients recovered from AN. This is important as tactile anhedonia in acute patients may be the secondary result of prolonged malnutrition, rather than a deficit that contributed to the development of the disorder. Second, we examined whether these three groups would also differ in their top-down, anticipatory beliefs about the perceived pleasantness of different materials touching the skin, and to what degree such top-down beliefs and related impairments in alexithymia and interoceptive sensibility would explain any differences in perceived tactile plesantness. To this end, we measured the anticipated pleasantness of various materials touching the skin and the perceived pleasantness of light, dynamic stroking touches applied to the forearm of 27 women with AN, 24 women who have recovered and 30 healthy controls using C Tactile (CT) afferents-optimal (slow) and non-optimal (fast) velocities. Our results showed that both clinical groups anticipated tactile experiences and rated delivered tactile stimuli as less pleasant than healthy controls, but the latter difference was not related to the CT optimality of the stimulation. Instead, differences in how CT optimal touch were perceived were predicted by differences in top-down beliefs, alexithymia and interoceptive sensibility. Thus, this study concludes that tactile anhedonia in AN is not the secondary result of malnutrition but persists as a trait even after otherwise successful recovery of AN and also it not linked to a bottom-up interoceptive deficit in the CT system, but rather to a learned, defective top-down anticipation of pleasant tactile experiences.

Type: Working / discussion paper
Title: The anticipation and perception of affective touch in women with and recovered from Anorexia Nervosa
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1101/2020.02.23.961367
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.02.23.961367
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the version of record. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10120310
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