Francis McGlone will be speaking about “Touch and the Developing Social Brain” at World Association for Infant Mental Health (WAIMH) conference in Veldhoven, hosted jointly by the Dutch & Flemish affiliates on March 13 – 14 (details below).

[section=Touch and the Developing Social Brain]

Friday 13th March, 12:00

Recent research has shown that some skin nerves (c-tactile afferents or CTs) send ‘feel good’ signals to the brain when activated by gentle touch, and how this kind of touch may be all-important in developing a healthy ‘social brain’ and in sustaining human relationships. Tactile research has focused mainly on the fingertips where information from mechanosensory receptors is conveyed to sensory areas of the brain by fast-conducting nerve fibres, enabling this information to be processed in ‘real-time’ – an important factor when handling objects or tools. However touch has another dimension, beyond the purely discriminative, an affective and affiliative one. We have described a system of highly sensitive slowly-conducting peripheral nerves that respond to nurturing/pleasant touch. CTs are only found in hairy skin (the main body area) and have not been found in the glabrous skin of the hands.

This presentation will describe research that has characterised the structure and function of CTs using psychophysical measures, microneurography recordings, and functional neuroimaging techniques. These data provide support for the functional role of a body-based emotional touch system – one that underpins the rewarding aspects of nurturing, affiliative, and social touch – leaving the hands to ‘touch’ while the body ‘feels’. It is proposed that CTs play a fundamental and critical role in the development of the neurotypical brain.


[section=WAIMH Veldhoven]

This conference is organized by the Dutch and Flemish Affiliates of WAIMH to jointly celebrate the 10th anniversary of both associations. The conference promises to be not only a scientific and societal event, but also a lively encounter with colleagues.

From a multidisciplinary framework, the role of social relations in the early development of babies and young children will be discussed. What does it mean to be born as a baby in a relational world that appears increasingly complex and diverse? How do babies and (very) young children actively engage with their relational environment? What is the impact of these experiences at the genetic level or on neurophysiological and social development? How can we use this knowledge in our clinical practice?

Based on their latest findings, some inspiring international and local speakers will develop and discuss several topics in these fascinating but complex domains.


Download the English PDF.

Conference Website


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