Affective sensation is a sensation accompanied with a strong compulsion to act on it, causing reflex actions such as the scratch reflex, gag reflex or the withdrawal reflex. Affective sensations are transmitted via the spinothalamic tract through the spinal cord. Sensory processing of the brain interacts with behavioral choices such as decisions to eat or stop eating in healthy individuals and in people with eating disorders.
Taste serves to identify potential nutrients and toxins. When subjects tasted a potentially nutritive stimulus, the connectivity between the insula and a feeding network including the hypothalamus, ventral pallidum, and striatum was greater than when tasting a potentially harmful stimulus. These results support the existence of an integrated supramodal flavor system in the anterior ventral insula that preferentially communicates with the circuits guiding feeding when the flavor is potentially nutritive.
Affective sensory information is transmitted via the spinothalamic tract. The sensation information is then accompanied by a compulsion to act. For instance, an itch is accompanied by a need to scratch, and a painful stimulus makes us want to withdraw from the pain.
The location of the spinothalamic tract is important clinically due of the characteristic sensory deficits that follow certain spinal cord injuries. For instance, a unilateral spinal lesion will produce sensory loss of touch, pressure, vibration, and proprioception below the lesion on the same side. The pathways for pain and temperature, however, cross the midline to ascend on the opposite side of the cord. Therefore, diminished sensation of pain below the lesion will be observed on the side opposite the mechanosensory loss and the lesion.
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