Professor Francis McGlone recently talked to New Scientist about this research, stating how touch is not just a 'sentimental human indulgence' but a 'biological necessity'.
The Somatosensory and Affective Neuroscience Group (SANG), led by Professor McGlone and Dr Susannah Walker from the School of Natural Sciences and Psychology , is taking touch right back to before birth to understand neurogenetic, psychopharmacological and behavioural influences on social brain development and to provide an understanding into conditions such as autism and anorexia.
Underpinning this 'systems approach' to neuroscience, research is being carried out characterising the role of a class of mechanosensory nerves, recently discovered in human skin, that code specifically for the rewarding and affiliative properties of touch, called c-tactile afferents (CTs). A recent perspective paper in Neuron outlines the theoretical basis of the groups research. The group are supported by grants from: Leverhulme Trust, Pain Research Institute, GSK BBSRC Case award, BIAL Foundation, MRC.
SANG is part of an interdisciplinary network involving LJMU's ‘Research Centre for Brain & Behaviour’ and the University of Liverpool's ‘Liverpool Neuroscience Group’. It was established to identify and develop the existing expertise in the field of Neuroscience and mental health in the Merseyside area.
The aim of the network is to foster discussion and collaboration across institutions and disciplines, with the objective of enhancing our understanding of the nervous system in health and disease for the public good.