Hand or spoon? Exploring the neural basis of affective touch in 5-month-old infants

L Pirazzoli, S Lloyd-Fox, R Braukmann, M H Johnson, T Gliga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)


In adults, affective touch leads to widespread activation of cortical areas including posterior Superior Temporal Sulcus (pSTS) and Inferior Frontal Gyrus (IFG). Using functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS), we asked whether similar areas are activated in 5-month-old infants, by comparing affective to non-affective touch. We contrasted a human touch stroke to strokes performed with a cold metallic spoon. The hypothesis that adult-like activation of cortical areas would be seen only in response to the human touch stroke was not confirmed. Similar patterns of activation were seen in both conditions. We conclude that either the posterior STS and IFG have not yet developed selective responses to affective touch, or that additional social cues are needed to be able to identify this type of touch.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-35
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience
Early online date5 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019
Externally publishedYes

Cite this