RISE and L’Oréal R&I reach a major milestone in the understanding how tactile acuity decreases with age

The quality of life of an aging population is increasingly important. How the touch sense is affected by age is relatively unknown today. A multidisciplinary team of researchers from RISE Research Institutes of Sweden and L’Oréal Research and Innovation have therefore developed a specific method allowing measurement and understanding of the reasons for reduced tactile acuity with age.

A reason for impaired quality of life is the fact that our senses deteriorate with age.We are aware of declined vision and hearing, and we compensate with spectacles and hearing aids.A less well understood sense is touch and it is not clear whether this is also affected, or how to investigate it, let alone address it. A multidisciplinary team of researchers from RISE Research Institutes of Sweden and L’Oréal Research and Innovation have developed a protocol to test tactile acuity. Application of this protocol to groups of young and elderly participants shows unambiguously that tactile acuity does decrease with age.

By applying psychophysical methods and measuring a range of skin properties the team was able to identify the underlying mechanisms behind this declined acuity and relate it to a decreased somatosensory function.Individuals who preserve a high level of tactile perception, also retain a high number of soft touch receptors in the skin.While the mechanical properties of skin change drastically with age, this is not the primary reason for the decrease in sensitivity, however the use of specific cosmetic products can lead to significant, albeit temporary, restoration of tactile acuity in older subjects.

The study is performed within the context of the Perception Delivery research area at RISE. Within this research area RISE strives not only to understand and map the mechanisms of tactile perception, but to apply this knowledge to controlling and communicating the tactile signature of materials and products.

The study is published in the prestigious journal Scientific Reports under the title of Mechanisms of tactile sensory deterioration amongst the elderly.http://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-23688-6

For more information about the study, please contact:

Prof. Mark Rutland, RISE, mark.rutland@ri.se, +46 768 64 00 81

Lisa Skedung, RISE, lisa.skedung@ri.se, +46 706 19 60 16

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