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Stroking modulates noxious-evoked brain activity in human infants

Gursul, Deniz; Goksan, Sezgi; Hartley, Caroline; Mellado, Gabriela Schmidt; Moultrie, Fiona; Hoskin, Amy; Adams, Eleri; Hathway, Gareth; Walker, Susannah; McGlone, Francis; Slater, Rebeccah

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Deniz Gursul

Sezgi Goksan

Caroline Hartley

Gabriela Schmidt Mellado

Fiona Moultrie

Amy Hoskin

Eleri Adams

Susannah Walker

Francis McGlone

Rebeccah Slater


A subclass of C fibre sensory neurons found in hairy skin are activated by gentle touch [1] and respond optimally to stroking at ∼1–10 cm/s, serving a protective function by promoting affiliative behaviours. In adult humans, stimulation of these C-tactile (CT) afferents is pleasant, and can reduce pain perception [2]. Touch-based techniques, such as infant massage and kangaroo care, are designed to comfort infants during procedures, and a modest reduction in pain-related behavioural and physiological responses has been observed in some studies [3]. Here, we investigated whether touch can reduce noxious-evoked brain activity. We demonstrate that stroking (at 3 cm/s) prior to an experimental noxious stimulus or clinical heel lance can attenuate noxious-evoked brain activity in infants. CT fibres may represent a biological target for non-pharmacological interventions that modulate pain in early life.


Gursul, D., Goksan, S., Hartley, C., Mellado, G. S., Moultrie, F., Hoskin, A., …Slater, R. (2018). Stroking modulates noxious-evoked brain activity in human infants. Current Biology, 28(24), R1380-R1381.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 17, 2018
Online Publication Date Dec 17, 2018
Publication Date Dec 17, 2018
Deposit Date Dec 18, 2018
Publicly Available Date Dec 18, 2018
Journal Current Biology
Print ISSN 0960-9822
Publisher Cell Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 28
Issue 24
Pages R1380-R1381
Keywords General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology; General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
Public URL
Publisher URL
Contract Date Dec 18, 2018


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