Haptic and Somesthetic Communication in Sexual Medicine

Alessandro Moscatelli, Filippo M. Nimbi, Simone Ciotti, Emmanuele A. Jannini

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Introduction: The word “haptics” refers to sensory inputs arising from receptors in the skin and in the musculoskeletal system, particularly crucial in sexual economy. Haptic stimuli provide information about mechanical properties of touched objects and about the position and motion of the body. An important area in this field is the development of robotic interfaces for communication through the “haptic channel,” which typically requires a collaboration between engineers, neuroscientists, and psychologists. Many aspects of human sexuality, such as arousal and intercourse, can be considered from a haptic perspective. Objectives: To review the current literature on haptics and somatosensation, and discuss potential applications of haptic interfaces in sexual medicine. Methods: Articles for this review were collected based on the results of a bibliographic search of relevant papers in Cochrane Library, Google Scholar, Web of Science, Scopus, and EBSCO. The search terms used, including asterisks, were “haptic∗,” “somatosensor∗,” “sexual∗,” and related terms describing the role of touch, technology, and sexuality. Additional terms included “interface∗,” “touch,” and “sex∗.” Results: We have provided a functional and anatomical description of the somatosensory system in humans, with special focus on neural structures involved in affective and erotic touch. One interesting topic is the development of haptic interfaces, which are specialized robots generating mechanical signals that stimulate our somatosensory system. We provided an overview on haptic interfaces and evaluated the role of haptics in sexual medicine. Conclusion: Haptics and studies on the neuroscience of the somatosensory system are expected to provide useful insights for sexual medicine and novel tools for sexual dysfunction. In the future, crosstalk between sexology and haptics may produce a novel generation of user-friendly haptic devices generating a higher level of realism and presence in providing stimuli. Moscatelli A, Nimbi FM, Ciotti S, et al. Haptic and Somesthetic Communication in Sexual Medicine. J Sex Med 2020;XX:XXX–XXX.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSexual Medicine Reviews
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Nov 2020


  • Haptics
  • Human
  • Orgasm
  • Sex
  • Sex Aids
  • Sex Toys
  • Sexuality
  • Touch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Urology


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