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The perception of affective touch in anorexia nervosa

Crucianelli, L; Cardi, V; Treasure, J; Jenkinson, PM; Fotopoulou, A; (2016) The perception of affective touch in anorexia nervosa. Psychiatry Research , 239 pp. 72-78. 10.1016/j.psychres.2016.01.078. Green open access

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Abstract

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a disorder characterized by restricted eating, fears of gaining weight, and body image distortions. The etiology remains unknown; however impairments in social cognition and reward circuits contribute to the onset and maintenance of the disorder. One possibility is that AN is associated with reduced perceived pleasantness during social interactions. We therefore examined the perception of interpersonal, ‘affective touch’ and its social modulation in AN. We measured the perceived pleasantness of light, dynamic stroking touches applied to the forearm of 25 AN patients and 30 healthy controls using C Tactile (CT) afferents-optimal (3 cm/s) and non-optimal (18 cm/s) velocities, while simultaneously displaying images of faces showing rejecting, neutral and accepting expressions. CT-optimal touch, but not CT non-optimal touch, elicited significantly lower pleasantness ratings in AN patients compared with healthy controls. Pleasantness ratings were modulated by facial expressions in both groups in a similar fashion; namely, presenting socially accepting faces increased the perception of touch pleasantness more than neutral and rejecting faces. Our findings suggest that individuals with AN have a disordered, CT-based affective touch system. This impairment may be linked to their weakened interoceptive perception and distorted body representation.

Type: Article
Title: The perception of affective touch in anorexia nervosa
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.psychres.2016.01.078
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2016.01.078
Language: English
Additional information: © 2016 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. This manuscript is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Non-derivative 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). This license allows you to share, copy, distribute and transmit the work for personal and non-commercial use providing author and publisher attribution is clearly stated. Further details about CC BY licenses are available at http://creativecommons.org/ licenses/by/4.0. Access may be initially restricted by the publisher.
Keywords: Body representation; CT system; Interoception; Interpersonal touch; Facial expressions; Social modulation
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
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/1478243
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