In 2017, Francesco Cerritelli and colleagues published a study in Frontiers of Neuroscience investigating the effect of touch on brain functional connectivity in relation to the operator’s attention. In this randomized-controlled single-blinded study, 40 healthy participants were randomly assigned into two groups, which both received static touch and were evaluated using fMRI. However, in one group the operator focused his attention on the tactile perception of his hand (tactile attention task), whereas the operator of the other group was focused on a repeated auditory stimulus (auditory attention task). A significant increase of anticorrelation between the right insula, posterior cingulate cortex, and right inferior-frontal gyrus has been shown after 15 minutes of touching. If the operator focuses his cognitive status on tactile perception, the participants functional connectivity of brain areas processing the interoceptive and attentional value of touch were significantly affected. Thus, this study might underline the importance of the cognitive status of the therapist/osteopath in touch-based osteopathic treatment.

Cerritelli, F., Chiacchiaretta, P., Gambi, F., Ferretti, A., 2017. Effect of continuous touch on brain functional connectivity is modified by the operator’s tactile attention. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 11(368).

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