In my current project I investigate how humans use and process affective touch. Touch provides the earliest form of communication between newborns and their environment and contributes to the development of the sense of self and one’s own body.
The neural processing of social touch is a novel research area with many basic questions still open. In order to understand how social touch can affect social cognition, emotion and behavior, we need to understand, what exactly makes touch signals specifically social. Considering its importance in social communication, cognition and behavior, studying social touch in psychiatric populations is of high interest.
Impairments in social cognition in Autism Spectrum Disease (ASD) are well described and it has been proposed that they might be rooted in deficits in social motivation. Furthermore, social and emotional impairments in ASD patients could be related to altered interoception.
We use functional magnetic resonance imaging of the brain, physiological and behavioral measures to understand how affective touch is processed in the healthy population as well as in psychiatric patients.