The touched self : Affective touch and body awareness in health and disease
This chapter focuses on how interpersonal, affective touch shapes our sense of self as embodied beings. In the first section, we highlight the centrality of bodily representations for our psychological sense of self, with special emphasis on the role of internal bodily signals in forming the emotional, core of selfhood. The second section focuses on affective touch as a domain of interoception and addresses its important contribution to healthy body representation and bodily awareness. Specifically, we present recent, accumulating evidence in healthy volunteers pointing to the crucial role of affective touch in the construction and maintenance of fundamental facets of bodily awareness, such as the sense of body ownership. Finally, in a third section, we discuss findings in neurological and psychiatric disorders of body representation and awareness, indicating the importance of affective touch and other affiliative, interpersonal signals for the construction of a coherent, efficient and resilient sense of embodied selfhood. Overall, our chapter draws on perspectives from multiple mind and brain fields in order to highlight how affective touch, a bodily modality by which we can communicate social affiliation and care, has a fundamental role in the constitution of selfhood.