Liverpool Skylilne

Natural Sciences and Psychology

Dr Connor Haggarty

Dr Connor Haggarty

Biography

Connor Is currently lecturing in Psychology on courses associated with Cognitive and Biological Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience, Research methods and a personal tutor.

Connor Haggarty's PhD was looking at: Individual differences in the behavioural and physiological responses to affective touch.

Across the lifespan social tactile interactions have been shown to benefit an individual’s physical health and psychological well-being. There are two different types of touch signalled by different nerves in the skin. The first allows us to distinguish between objects we come into contact with and to localise touch on the skin. These are signalled by relatively large diameter fast-conducting nerves. The second type of touch is the emotional information about sensation; these are conveyed by small diameter slow-conducting nerves. Typically these ‘C-type’ nerves are associated with signalling the emotional qualities of pain and itch. However, it is a recently discovered subtype of these C-type nerves that I’m most interested in.The C-Tactile afferents or CTs are very picky about the type of touch they respond to. Touch must be slow moving not static, it must be gentle not forceful and the temperature of the touch should be around 30 degrees. We know this because direct measurement from these nerves show their activation is directly tied to these criteria. These criteria suggest that CTs have evolved to signal the rewarding value of social tactile interactions like a gentle caress.
This is important because touch is a key regulator of our emotional arousal and plays an integral role in our early social development. So what would happen if we didn't receive comfort or reprieve from negative emotional situations? Imagine if the typically pleasant sensations that we perceive during CT activation were unpleasant. What consequences would this have on a developing infant?
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is a prolific developmental condition, characterised by social deficits and abnormality in sensory experiences. Early evidence suggests that there are neurological differences between the healthy and autistic brain. The aim of my research is to discover how individuals with ASD process CT-optimal touch. Using brain imaging methods and physiological techniques, I aim to measure the differences between autistic and healthy individuals during CT-activating touch.
Our research to date suggests that individuals with ASD do not find CT-optimal touch more preferable than non-CT-optimal speeds of touch. This could mean that the pleasant and socially rewarding aspects of CT-optimal touch are not experienced with individuals with ASD. In my current research projects I am 1) Measuring whether children with ASD show a preference for CT-optimal touch as healthy peers do and 2) Measuring physiological responses to CT-optimal and non-CT-optimal touch in adults with ASD compared to healthy controls.

This project was supervised by:
Dr. Susannah Walker
Dr. David Moore
Prof. Francis McGlone

Degrees

2018, Liverpool John Moores University, UK, PhD Cognitive Neuroscience
2014, Aston University, United Kingdom, M.Sc Cognitive Neuroscience
2011, Bangor University, United Kingdom, B.Sc Psychology with Neuropsychology

Academic appointments

Lecturer in Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University, 2019 - present

Publications

Thesis/Dissertation

Haggarty CJ. Individual Differences in Behavioural and Physiological Responses to Affective Touch Walker S, Moore D, McGlone FP.