PTUK 2018 Conference: Keynote by Francis McGlone

SomAffect Professor Francis McGlone was invited to give a keynote speech at the PlayTherapy UK 2018 Conference – titled “The Neurological Basis of Affective Touch“.

PTUK have made both the keynote, and an interview available online, below.

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A Touching Story – BNA Bulletin – Autumn 2017

The Autumn 2017 edition of the BNA Bulletin (free to all British Neuroscience Association Members!) which has just landed on the doormats, in-trays and inboxes of over 2000 people features a 2 page article on C-Tactile fibres, touch, and the work of SomAffect / LJMU Professor Francis McGlone.

… “The fast nerves have dominated our understanding of touch” … “But that’s the boring stuff. The rest of the body, that’s where the C-tactile fibres are.” …


A touching story

C-tactile fibres in hairy skin, specialised for responding to gentle stroking, could be playing a key role in development of the social brain.


… “It doesn’t matter what story you tell, the nerve fibres have worked it out.” …


Download the Article (PDF): A Touching Story  and visit the British Neuroscience Association to sign up, and read the whole bulletin (plus back issues from 2004).

© The British Neuroscience Association Ltd

Spinal Column: we all benefit from a tender touch – Melanie Reid, The Times

Melanie Reid MBE is an award-winning Times journalist whose weekly column for The Times, ‘Spinal Column’, is about disability and her life as a disabled person – Melanie is tetraplegic after breaking her neck and back in a riding accident.

On November 25 2017, she wrote a column on the benefits of tender touch, in part as a response to the growing concerns about “inappropriate touch” following a number of high-profile revelations of harassment.

In it, she quotes from research into the effects of touch, her own experiences, and conversations with SomAffect’s Francis McGlone, raising many of the issues covered at IASAT2017.

The article is reproduced below; © Times Newspapers Ltd. / Melanie Reid.


Spinal column: we all benefit from a tender touch

“People like me aren’t too fragile to be touched. We long for physical contact – just like you”


Weeks pass, every one bearing some fresh, sad harvest of accusation. He touched me! My leg was stroked! My teacher touched my arm – it’s abuse! In our rush to condemn a few creeps, we are universally demonising something that is vital to us: human contact.

And I sit in my chair, my metal stockade, fenced off from touch, despairing at how we cheapen and threaten something so precious. Since I last wrote about this, I have seen touch become synonymous with assault and abuse. This is tragic. We have to combat it.

Experts are appalled how touch-averse we are becoming. Professor Francis McGlone, a neuroscientist at Liverpool John Moores University, told me he fears teachers, carers and adoptive parents are now running scared.

Dave Hewett, a specialist in communication, sent me a moving account of how adults with multiple disabilities and very restricted motor ability will play together if allowed. At one enlightened centre, three young women and two young men, none of whom could speak, were regularly hoisted from their wheelchairs and lowered into a large, soft corner area, very close to each other. In slow motion, they started to roll, pat, stroke, prod and push each other. They became noisy. They obviously had a wonderful time.

The students had known each other since they were children. First the staff had noticed how they reached out to each other if their chairs were accidently parked close together – normally, they weren’t. The staff then tried putting them together on cushions, monitoring them carefully, and were amazed at the result.

For people with profound learning difficulties, for anyone who lives in a wheelchair – and indeed, if the present madness continues, for every one of us – experts now acknowledge a real danger of social deprivation, of being the “untouched”. Strapped behind physical barriers, the disabled especially can seem too fragile, awkward and physically unyielding, and may only be touched in functional ways. Many are only pushed, pulled, lifted, tightened, loosened, dabbed, wiped, changed, fed, scraped. Can you imagine anything worse than a lifetime of only ever being touched briskly and efficiently? I inhabit the fringes of that. It’s a barren place.

Please, disregard the gropers. Remember instead the stories about touching that really matter: the study that showed how premature babies who are stroked, compared with those who weren’t, put on 50 per cent more weight, were able to leave hospital six days earlier, and a year later had better mental and physical abilities. This research was perfectly framed by the recent case of the premature twins, struggling for breath in separate incubators, who on their mother’s pleading were reunited. They immediately put their arms around each other and began, dramatically, to thrive. They had been starving for touch. We forget that without nurture and touch, or when locked in orphanages, babies die. And adults falter.

Evidence is everywhere. Patients who are touched by a nurse the day before an operation decrease their subjective and objective level of stress. Gentle stroking lowers blood pressure and increases pain thresholds, and can protect the brain from stroke damage. Sports teams that touch more win more – players on NBA basketball teams who spent time in celebratory fist bumps, high fives or half-hugs early in the season could predict an improved performance months later. And what is the success of the spa industry based on, if not our craving for touch?

Rather thrillingly, Professor McGlone, with colleagues in Sweden, has identified touch-sensitive nerves, called c-tactile afferents (CT), which register emotional touch rather than “sensing” touch. We carry these nerves on hairy bits of skin – our forearms and back, always hungry for a gentle caress or other so-called light or innocuous touch. Touch deprivation, he says, is the lack of CT – emotional touch.

And it’s the glue that binds all social mammals together. Touch is primal – it helps us forge connections and construct a sense of self, makes us aware of our own bodies and allows us to relate to people. It’s possible, as with the premature babies, it is linked to survival itself.

So bugger the revival of age-old puritanism. Hug everyone who looks like they need it. Dance, link arms, hold hands. And hold on to the wonderful image of those disabled adults, rolling on the floor twice a week, prodding each other with joy and laughter.

Future-proofing Healthcare: Neurosense – 2nd November – FREE Event

Future-proofing Healthcare: NeuroSensea non-promotional evening, hosted by Roche, to explore the future of Neuroscience through the five senses.

NeuroSense will address the link between stimulation of the senses and development of the brain, what happens when the brain is damaged and what the future looks like for healing the brain and managing neurological conditions.

Agenda Includes:

How do you feel? The development of our sense of touch and the implications for some neurological conditions
Professor Francis McGlone

Thursday, November 2, 2017
18:30 – 22:00

Studio Spaces
Unit 2
110 Pennington St
St Katharine’ & Wapping
London E1W 2BB

 

More Details

CTs & Microneurography in Moscow

As part of SomAffect’s developing collaboration with Anton Varlamov & Galina Protnova at the Russian Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology, Francis McGlone & Adarsh Makdani were recently invited to help establish a Microneurography lab in Moscow.

 

 

The first series of experiments proved extremely promising, and included practice with ultrasound guided microneurography, and an encouraging trial experiment in a person with autism.

Professor McGlone was also invited to speak about C-Tactile Fibres, and the Social Touch Hypothesis, central to much of SomAffect’s work.

The lectures prompted engaging discussions between academics and practitioners, which we hope will be the springboard for a number of exciting research projects.

 

 

NewScientist: Premature babies’ brains respond differently to gentle touching.

SomAffect’s research with collaborators into gentle touch in premature infants has been featured in an article by the NewScientist by Linda Geddes.

While many premature babies experience pain, McGlone thinks that it is exposure to gentle touch that really matters. There’s mounting evidence that a set of nerves called c-tactile fibres are activated by soft caresses, and might provide a scaffold for the developing social brain. “These preterm infants have a highly developed c-tactile system, and I believe that the way the brain wires up its sense of self is critically dependent on this system feeding information in,” McGlone says.

Read more at NewScientist.com

BPS 1 Day Conference: Division of Educational and Child Psychology – 10/02/2017

SomAffect’s Prof. Francis McGlone will be a keynote speaker at one day conference on touch hosted by the BPS:DECP in London on Friday 10th February 2017


Touch: trust, timidity and taboo in professional care for children and young people, who have been rejected, neglected and abused

Date: Friday 10th February 2017

Times: 09-30 to 16-30 (Registration 9.00-9.30)

Venue: BPS London Office, 30 Tabernacle Street, London. EC2A 4UE

Conference costs: £50 including lunch and refreshments

Speakers: Prof. Francis McGlone, Prof. Heather Piper, Dr Laura Steckley, Dr Tony Mancini, and Dr Sean Cameron

Objectives for the day:

  1. To consider the latest research on ‘affective touch’ and its place in professional child care.
  2. To clarify the issues around recommended practice guidelines and/or current perceptions on the employment of touch in schools, children’s homes and foster/ adoptive family homes.
  3.  To discuss safeguarding issues for both young people and their carers.
  4. To decide whether the ‘touch taboo’ issue is one on which the BPS and the DECP should take a more robust and positive stance.
  5. To draft a series of principles and guidelines concerning touch in childcare and educational contexts.

DECP Feb 10th 2017 programme (docx)

New Book: Affective Touch and the Neurophysiology of CT Afferents: 2016

atncta-coverCT afferents are receptors in mammalian hairy skin that fire action potentials when the skin is touched lightly which makes them particularly important in affective touch.  Traditionally neuroscientific research has focused on more discriminative and haptic properties of touch that are mediated by large myelinated afferents and the coding properties and functional organization of unmyelinated CT afferents have been studied much less.  The proposed volume will draw together existing knowledge in this nascent field. Separate sections will address (1) how we can measure affective touch, (2) CT structure and physiology, (3) CT processing, (4) the contribution of CTs to sexual behavior, (5) clinical relevance, (6) commercial relevance, and (7) future research considerations. (more…)

Workshop: Interacting with Robots Through Touch – UC Irvine, USA

On 13th September 2016, SomAffect’s Francis McGlone will be speaking at a workshop held at University of California, Irvine.

Register at: http://www.socsci.uci.edu/~jkrichma/haptics_workshop.html


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Pain, the Brain and a Little Bit of Magic

On Friday 29th April at 1:30pm Liverpool Pain Relief Foundation will be hosting an interesting event which is currently touring the region.

PtBaalBoM

Pain, the Brain and a Little Bit of Magic is an empowering performance talk which takes alook inside the brain, exploring how we feel pain, how pain is signalled in the body and how we develop chronic conditions. Based on pioneering research, ‘Pain, the Brain and a Little Bit of Magic’ offers an optimistic message of how chronic pain may be better understood and treated.

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