Warm pleasant feelings in the brain

University of Oxford, Department of Experimental Psychology, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3UD, England, UK.
NeuroImage (Impact Factor: 6.36). 08/2008; 41(4):1504-13. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2008.03.005
Source: PubMed


Warm and cold stimuli have affective components such as feeling pleasant or unpleasant, and these components may have survival value, for approach to warmth and avoidance of cold may be reinforcers or goals for action built into us during evolution to direct our behaviour to stimuli that are appropriate for survival. Understanding the brain processing that underlies these prototypical reinforcers provides a direct approach to understanding the brain mechanisms of emotion. In an fMRI investigation in humans, we showed that the mid-orbitofrontal and pregenual cingulate cortex and the ventral striatum have activations that are correlated with the subjective pleasantness ratings made to warm (41 degrees C) and cold (12 degrees C) stimuli, and combinations of warm and cold stimuli, applied to the hand. Activations in the lateral and some more anterior parts of the orbitofrontal cortex were correlated with the unpleasantness of the stimuli. In contrast, activations in the somatosensory cortex and ventral posterior insula were correlated with the intensity but not the pleasantness of the thermal stimuli. A principle thus appears to be that processing related to the affective value and associated subjective emotional experience of thermal stimuli that are important for survival is performed in different brain areas to those where activations are related to sensory properties of the stimuli such as their intensity. This conclusion appears to be the case for processing in a number of sensory modalities, and the finding with such prototypical stimuli as warm and cold provides strong support for this principle.

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Available from: Benjamin A Parris, Oct 01, 2015
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    • "The FN range was chosen on the basis of our previous observation [25] that healthy subjects spontaneously choose exploration forces in the range of 0.2 to 1.6N. The TS values were chosen to range from non-painfully cold (threshold ∼ 9–10°C) to non-painfully hot (threshold ∼43–47°C) [22]; [26]–[27]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Objective Tactile explorations with the fingertips provide information regarding the physical properties of surfaces and their relative pleasantness. Previously, we performed an investigation in the active touch domain and linked several surface properties (i.e. frictional force fluctuations and net friction) with their pleasantness levels. The aim of the present study was to investigate physical factors being important for pleasantness perception during passive fingertip stimulation. Specifically we were interested to see whether factors, such as surfaces' topographies or their frictional characteristics could influence pleasantness. Furthermore, we ascertained how the stimulus pleasantness level was impacted by (i) the normal force of stimulus application (FN) and (ii) the stimulus temperature (TS). Methods and Results The right index fingertips of 22 blindfolded participants were stimulated using 27 different stimuli, which varied in average roughness (Ra) and TS. A 4-axis robot moved the stimuli horizontally under participants' fingertips with three levels of FN. The robot was equipped with force sensors, which recorded the FN and friction force (FT) during stimulation. Participants rated each stimulus according to a three-level pleasantness scale, as very pleasant (scored 0), pleasant (scored 1), or unpleasant (scored 2). These ordinal pleasantness ratings were logarithmically transformed into linear and unidimensional pleasantness measures with the Rasch model. Statistical analyses were conducted to investigate a possible link between the stimulus properties (i.e. Ra, FN, FT, and TS) and their respective pleasantness levels. Only the mean Ra and FT values were negatively correlated with pleasantness. No significant correlation was detected between FN or TS and pleasantness. Conclusion Pleasantness perception, resulting from passive fingertip stimulation, seems to be influenced by the surfaces' average roughness levels and average FT occurring during fingertip stimulation.
    PLoS ONE 07/2014; 9(7):e101361. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0101361 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    • "UC subjects compared to HCs showed lower CT in the bilateral OFG, a brain region which plays an important role in interoception, emotion evaluation and regulation, and in cognitive reappraisal [43], [72], [73]. Decreased gray matter in OFG has also been found in other chronic pain disorders with inflammatory/nociceptive drive including hip osteoarthritis [64], low back pain [39] and migraine [74]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Regional cortical thickness alterations have been reported in many chronic inflammatory and painful conditions, including inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), even though the mechanisms underlying such neuroplastic changes remain poorly understood. In order to better understand the mechanisms contributing to grey matter changes, the current study sought to identify the differences in regional alterations in cortical thickness between healthy controls and two chronic visceral pain syndromes, with and without chronic gut inflammation. 41 healthy controls, 11 IBS subjects with diarrhea, and 16 subjects with ulcerative colitis (UC) underwent high-resolution T1-weighted magnetization-prepared rapid acquisition gradient echo scans. Structural image preprocessing and cortical thickness analysis within the region of interests were performed by using the Laboratory of Neuroimaging Pipeline. Group differences were determined using the general linear model and linear contrast analysis. The two disease groups differed significantly in several cortical regions. UC subjects showed greater cortical thickness in anterior cingulate cortical subregions, and in primary somatosensory cortex compared with both IBS and healthy subjects. Compared with healthy subjects, UC subjects showed lower cortical thickness in orbitofrontal cortex and in mid and posterior insula, while IBS subjects showed lower cortical thickness in the anterior insula. Large effects of correlations between symptom duration and thickness in the orbitofrontal cortex and postcentral gyrus were only observed in UC subjects. The findings suggest that the mechanisms underlying the observed gray matter changes in UC subjects represent a consequence of peripheral inflammation, while in IBS subjects central mechanisms may play a primary role.
    PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(1):e84564. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0084564 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    • "b Hulvershorn et al., 2012; Linke et al., 2012. c Rolls et al., 2008. "
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    ABSTRACT: Current theories suggest that the brain is the sole source of mental illness. However, affective disorders, and major depressive disorder (MDD) in particular, may be better conceptualized as brain-body disorders that involve peripheral systems as well. This perspective emphasizes the embodied, multifaceted physiology of well-being, and suggests that afferent signals from the body may contribute to cognitive and emotional states. In this review, we focus on evidence from preclinical and clinical studies suggesting that afferent thermosensory signals contribute to well-being and depression. Although thermoregulatory systems have traditionally been conceptualized as serving primarily homeostatic functions, increasing evidence suggests neural pathways responsible for regulating body temperature may be linked more closely with emotional states than previously recognized, an affective warmth hypothesis. Human studies indicate that increasing physical warmth activates brain circuits associated with cognitive and affective functions, promotes interpersonal warmth and prosocial behavior, and has antidepressant effects. Consistent with these effects, preclinical studies in rodents demonstrate that physical warmth activates brain serotonergic neurons implicated in antidepressant-like effects. Together, these studies suggest that (1) thermosensory pathways interact with brain systems that control affective function, (2) these pathways are dysregulated in affective disorders, and (3) activating warm thermosensory pathways promotes a sense of well-being and has therapeutic potential in the treatment of affective disorders.
    Frontiers in Psychology 01/2014; 5:1580. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01580 · 2.80 Impact Factor
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