Scientific Reports (Apr 2021)

The neural bases of tactile vitality forms and their modulation by social context

  • G. Rizzolatti,
  • A. D’Alessio,
  • M. Marchi,
  • G. Di Cesare

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 11, no. 1
pp. 1 – 14


Read online

Abstract People communicate using speech, gestures, and, less frequently, touches. An example of tactile communication is represented by handshake. Customs surrounding handshake vary in different cultures. In Western societies is mostly used when meeting, parting, as a sign of congratulations or at the end of a successful business. Despite its importance in social life, the neural mechanism underlying the affective components conveyed by handshake (“tactile vitality forms”) is unknown. Here we combined functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electromyography (EMG), to investigate the neural affective activations during handshakes. We demonstrated that handshake conveying gentle or aggressive tactile vitality forms produces a stronger activation of the dorso-central insula. The simultaneous presence of emotional facial expressions modulates the activation of this insular sector. Finally, we provide evidence that the cingulate cortex is involved in the processing of facial expressions conveying different vitality forms.