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The benefits of caresses (according to science)

The benefits of caresses (according to science)

June 17, 2024

A new investigation of the Association of Neuropsychoanalysis seems to indicate that caresses play an important role in how the brain develops the mental image of the body . This study supports the idea that interoceptive signals such as affective contact are important for understanding the body and help create a coherent sense about oneself.

The decrease in the perception of these signals have been related to problems of body image, phantom pain, anorexia nervosa and bulimia. In addition, other studies related to pain or depression also support the idea that caresses bring benefits to health and well-being .

Caresses help maintain a positive sense of "I"

Caressing with affection, a habitual gesture between mothers and children or between couples, can increase the ability of the brain to build the sense of ownership of one's body and maintain a sense of healthy "I".

The study to which we refer, was published in Frontiers Psychology, and was headed by Dr. Aikaterini Fotopoulou, director of the Association of Neuropsychoanalysis, and by Mark Jenkinson, professor of the Department of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom.

52 healthy adults participated and used an experimental technique known as "rubber hand illusion". In this technique the participant sits at a table with half-closed eyes (to reduce his visual field). Place the arms on the table, but one is hidden, because it has the rubber hand on top. When stimulating the rubber hand, the individual perceives that they are stimulating his real hand, although it is the rubber that receives the caresses. This technique demonstrates the changing nature of the perception of one's body.

In previous studies, it has been shown that affective caress , characterized by a slow stimulation of the skin (between 1 and 10 cm per second), correlates with pleasurable emotions and improves anxious symptoms . Dr. Fotopoulou's team wanted to know if affective caress affected the brain's understanding of the body.

In this investigation the technique of the illusion of the rubber hand was adapted to incorporate different types of caresses: slow and fast caresses (synchronized and not synchronized both), and affective caresses. After the test the participants were asked to complete a questionnaire that measured their subjective experience of the experiment.

This study supports the idea that the perception of interoceptive signals such as emotional contact help to build a mental image of one's own body, since the perception of affective touch in the brain is part of a series of signals that help to monitor the homeostasis .

Caresses help to soothe pain, depression, and strengthen the immune system

Caresses not only make you feel good and communicate positive feelings, but there are several studies that show that these can be effective to combat pain, strengthen the immune system or combat depression.

A study carried out by American Journal of Psychiatry seems to indicate that caresses favor the release of oxytocin, a hormone that induces relaxation and helps us feel full and happy. According to the authors of the study, people who are single and without a romantic relationship tend to be more depressed and sad.

Other benefits of caresses

In addition to the benefits that we have already indicated regarding caresses, science seems to provide more data that supports the idea that caresses favor the well-being of all of us. Here are some examples:

Maternal caresses heal the effects of pregnancy stress on children

The emotions that the mother experiences during pregnancy affect the pregnant baby in one way or another . When living a stressful situation, your body reacts by releasing hormones that reach the baby through the placenta, which is associated with various alterations in its development. A study published in PLOSone it seems to indicate that the caresses of the mothers to their children when they are born reduces the stress and the negative emotions of this one after the birth and favors its physiological adaptability.

Improves lung function

A research from the University of Touch Research Institute in Miami, seems to reveal that caress improves lung function , immune function and improves the health of our heart. The human touch is important for all ages.

Helps control blood pressure

According to a study by the University of North Carolina it seems that people give hugs and caresses regularly to their partner, they have a lower blood pressure and suffer less pathologies associated with the heart.

What You Can Learn By Touching Someone (June 2024).

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