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The importance of social touch for infant social-emotional development: integrating neuroimaging, psychophysiological, endocrine, and behavioral evidence

Grant number: 21/06693-4
Support Opportunities:Research Grants - Young Investigators Grants - Phase 2
Duration: May 01, 2022 - April 30, 2027
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Psychology - Physiological Psychology
Principal Investigator:Ana Alexandra Caldas Osório
Grantee:Ana Alexandra Caldas Osório
Host Institution: Centro de Ciências Biológicas e da Saúde (CCBS). Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie (UPM). Instituto Presbiteriano Mackenzie. São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Associated researchers: Adriana Sampaio ; Ana Raquel Marcelino Mesquita ; Helga de Oliveira Miguel ; Laura Pirazzoli ; Miriam Oliveira Ribeiro ; Rickson Coelho Mesquita ; Rogério De Oliveira ; Sarah Lloyd-Fox ; Sergio Luiz Novi Junior ; Simone G. Shamay-Tsoory ; Vera Lúcia Esteves Mateus
Associated research grant:14/06777-0 - Oxytocin and racial bias: impact of the intranasal administration of oxytocin on empathy to physical pain and threat perceptions in racial contexts, AP.JP
Associated scholarship(s):24/00454-6 - Mother´s touch: importance of maternal touch for child development, BP.JC
24/00455-2 - Mother´s touch: importance of maternal touch for child development, BP.JC
23/16192-8 - Maternal touch behaviors and infant cortisol production, BP.IC
+ associated scholarships 23/12250-3 - Infant neuronal and cardiac responses to maternal versus stranger's touch, BP.DD
23/11527-1 - Relation between maternal affective touch and neural activation in the temporoparietal area among 6 months infants., BP.IC
23/04392-2 - Maternal touch and infant neural activation to touch: relationship with emotion regulation during the first year of life, BP.DR
23/09990-5 - Associations between maternal sensitivity and infants' neuronal responses to maternal touch, BP.MS
23/10038-7 - Maternal sensitivity and infants' endocrine stress responses, BP.MS
23/04029-5 - Neural responses to touch, BP.PD
22/14425-2 - Infant neuronal responses to touch by the mother versus a stranger at 6 months, BP.IC
22/13637-6 - Infant neuronal responses to touch by hand versus spoon at 6 months, BP.IC - associated scholarships


Touch is essential to the establishment of affective bonds and to our well-being. The interpersonal touch experience is particularly important in early childhood since it is the most fundamental form of parental care. However, the study of this sensory modality remains surprisingly neglected. More specifically, little is known about the perception and processing of social touch, as well as its impact on adaptive stress responses in infants. This FAPESP Young Researcher (Phase 2) proposal is organized in four studies that focus on complementing research questions and methods which, taken together, aim to make substantial contributions to scientific knowledge on social touch in infancy. Study 1 aims to clarify the patterns of neural activation in response to social touch in infants, while Study 2 will analyze the impact of partner identity (mother versus unfamiliar female) on the neural and cardiac responses to social touch in the first year of life. In turn, Study 3 aims to illuminate the potential mediating role of these cardiac and neural activation patterns in the relationship between maternal touching behaviors and infant behavioral and endocrine stress responses. Finally, Study 4 will be devoted to the development of a novel fNIRS hyperscanning protocol for application in infant-caregiver interactions which will in turn enable the assessment of the partners' neural and cardiac synchrony during a touch interaction. The studies that compose this proposal aim to significantly expand scientific knowledge on the characterization and importance of social touch in infancy, integrating functional neuroimaging, psychophysiology, endocrinology, and behavioral evidence at a critical age for social-emotional development. (AU)

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