Thursday, May 15, 2008

Our facial touch sensitivity - enhanced by viewing a touch.

Studies have shown that observing touch on another person's body activates brain regions involved in tactile perception, even when the observer's body is not directly stimulated. Previous work has shown that in some synaesthetes, this effect induces a sensation of being touched. Serino et al. show in nonsynaesthetes, that
..when observers see a face being touched by hands, rather than a face being merely approached by hands, their detection of subthreshold tactile stimuli on their own faces is enhanced. This effect is specific to observing touch on a body part, and is not found for touch on a nonbodily stimulus, namely, a picture of a house...Thus, observing touch can activate the tactile system, and if perceptual thresholds are manipulated, such activation can result in a behavioral effect in nonsynaesthetes.The effect is maximum if the observed body matches the observer's body.

Figure - Visual stimuli used in the tactile confrontation task. In blocked trials, subjects viewed an image of their own face, another person's face, or a house. In each trial, the finger on the bottom left, the finger on the bottom right, or both fingers moved toward the target; in the touch condition, the finger (or fingers) actually touched the target, and in the no-touch condition, the finger (or fingers) reached a position 5 cm away from the target.
Think of when you might have watched a romantic touch in a movie, sitting next to someone you wished would stroke you.....


  1. I wonder what part does mirror neuron system play in all of this if any at all?

  2. good post and nice blog, I really like this type of interesting articles keep it up.