Francis McGlone: A Symphony in C

The next ABC seminar will be on 16 November 2018 at 12:30. Prof. McGlone will give a talk on social touch, and specifically on the role of afferent c-fibres in skin, coding for pain, itch and pleasure. He’s visiting us to serve as the opponent at Juulia Suvilehto’s doctoral defence (Thursday 15 Nov at 12 noon, Lumituuli auditorium, Dipoli). The venue is lecture room U135a (“Nokia”) at Otakaari 1. It is situated next to the cafe Elissa, where coffee and pulla are also served after the talk.

Speaker: Prof. Francis McGlone

Short bio:

Francis McGlone is Professor in Neuroscience at Liverpool John Moores University, & Visiting Professor, Liverpool University, UK.  He is Director of the Somatosensory & Affective Neuroscience Lab at the School of Natural Sciences & Psychology. He has a long-term interest in the function of the different classes of afferent c-fibres innervating human skin - those that code for pain, itch (for which an IgNobel prize was awarded!) and ‘pleasure’ - at both peripheral and central levels. Techniques used in his research into mechanisms underpinning affiliative and social touch span single unit recordings with microneurography, psychophysical measurements, functional neuroimaging, behavioural measures, and psychopharmacological approaches.He is also co-director of the recently established ‘International Association for the Study of Affective Touch’ (IASAT). 

Title: A Symphony in C


Research into each of the three classes of afferent c-fibres in health and disease has largely been studied separately, with crucial questions therefore remaining unanswered (and unasked) regarding the overlap and integration of these ‘parallel pathways’. Much has been lost in treating each as a separate channel – for example, itch and pain interact in an antagonistic manner, opioids prescribed for pain relief can induce itch.

However, the ‘new kid of the block’ – C-tactile afferents (CTs) - with their projection to the insular cortex, has now led to a view of the ‘skin as a social organ’ as well as a ‘protective organ’. CTs respond optimally to slowly moving, gentle caressing touch – a hallmark of social interactions and are proposed to represent an evolutionarily conserved mechanism in mammals (and invertebrates?) playing a critical role in neurodevelopment and subsequent social behaviour. Epigenetic research is showing how nurturing behaviour can turn on/off specific genes. Offspring of rat mothers that engage in relatively high levels of licking/grooming behaviour has lifelong effects on an animal’s response to stress, correlating with autonomic, HPA and mesolimbic dopamine responses – they are less anxious as adults.

The aim is to seek a broader understanding of the role of afferent cutaneous c-fibres in order to provide a more multidisciplinary and multisensory view of C-fibres as ‘protectors’ – none more so that the CT, the main focus of this talk.

Defence of dissertation in the field of systems neuroscience, Juulia Suvilehto, M.Sc.(Tech.)

Social touch in Finland and abroad

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