About this Research Topic
So far, research that specifically investigates mechanisms and consequences of comforting behavior is scarce. Nevertheless, animal and human research suggests that neuromodulators such as oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine and endogenous opioid systems are involved and that social conditions are crucial in regulating autonomic and somatic states. For instance, oxytocin has been implicated in social stress coping, verbal emotion sharing, social and physical warmth, social touch, soothing music effects, satiety, and appears to protect against drug addiction. Physical warmth, in turn, has been implicated in shaping people’s mental representations of their communal relations, and sooths them in cases of negative social events. Some of the effects of oxytocin appear mediated by serotonergic, dopaminergic and endogenous opioid systems. Low levels of oxytocin have been found in mental disorders characterized by rejection (“social coldness”) sensitivity. Moreover, pharmacological neuroimaging studies have shown that oxytocin modulates activity in brain systems that include the (anterior) insula. In turn, the insula is implicated in anxiety, the perception of physical and social warmth, skin warming and falling asleep, social touch and pain brain networks, and drug and food craving. Together, these associations of oxytocin and insula function provide starting points for research and for bringing together efforts from different disciplines to increase our understanding of mechanisms of self-soothing. Possibly, bringing together different disciplines and lines of research may bring to light mechanistic overlap between different kinds and mediators of self-soothing.
Scientists working on topics relevant to (self-)soothing are encouraged to submit Original Research, Hypothesis and Theory, Review, Mini-Review, Registered Reports (IPA, for details, see here. We recommend these for feasible studies, such as social soothing), and Perspective articles. By bringing together researchers from traditionally separated domains, we hope to stimulate crosstalk between human and animal behavioral, brain and psychopharmacological researchers, and thus to deepen our understanding of (self-)soothing. Articles may highlight neuromodulation, brain mechanisms, behavior and social aspects of (self-)soothing.
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