The perception of affective touch in Parkinson's disease and its relation to small fibre neuropathy

Lewis Kass-Iliyya, Matthew Leung, Andrew Marshall, Paula Trotter, Christopher Kobylecki, Susannah Walker, David Gosal, Maria Jeziorska, Rayaz Malik, Francis McGlone, Monty Silverdale

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Abstract

Affective touch sensation is conducted by a sub-class of C-fibres in hairy skin known as C-Tactile (CT) afferents. CT afferents respond maximally to gentle skin stroking at velocities between 1-10 cm/sec. Parkinson's disease (PD) is characterised by markedly reduced cutaneous C-fibres. It is not known if affective touch perception is influenced by C fibre density and if affective touch is impaired in PD compared to healthy controls. We predicted that perceived pleasantness to gentle stroking in PD would correlate with C afferent density and that affective touch perception would be impaired in PD compared to healthy controls. Twenty-four PD patients and 27 control subjects rated the pleasantness of brush stroking at an optimum CT stimulation velocity (3cm/sec) and two sub-optimal velocities (0.3cm/sec & 30cm/sec). PD patients underwent quantification of C-fibre density using skin biopsies and corneal confocal microscopy. All participants rated stroking velocity of 3cm/sec as the most pleasant with significantly lower ratings for 0.3cm/sec and 30cm/sec. There was a significant positive correlation between C-fibre density and pleasantness ratings at 3cm/sec and 30cm/sec but not 0.3cm/sec. Mean pleasantness ratings were consistently higher in PD patients compared to control subjects across all three velocities. This study shows that perceived pleasantness to gentle touch correlate significantly with C-fibre density in PD. The higher perceived pleasantness in PD patients compared to controls suggests central sensitisation to peripheral inputs, which may have been enhanced by dopamine therapy. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Early online date17 Nov 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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