The experience of touch, including how pleasant it is deemed to be by the recipient, can by affected by words spoken while touch is conducted, new research shows.

“Cognitive influences on the affective representation of touch and the sight of touch in the human brain” was reported by researchers from the University of Oxford and School of Medicine, Liverpool University, both in the United Kingdom, the journal “Social Cognitive and Affective NeuroScience.”

The researchers noted:

“We show that the affective experience of touch and the sight of touch can be modulated by cognition and investigate in an fMRI study where top-down cognitive modulations of bottom-up somatosensory and visual processing of touch and its affective value occur in the human brain.

“The cognitive modulation was produced by word labels, ‘Rich moisturizing cream’ or ‘Basic cream’, while cream was being applied to the forearm, or was seen being applied to a forearm. The subjective pleasantness and richness were modulated by the word labels, as were the fMRI activations to touch in parietal cortex area 7, the insula and ventral striatum.

The cognitive labels influenced the activations to the sight of touch and also the correlations with pleasantness in the pregenual cingulate/orbitofrontal cortex and ventral striatum.”