Wise-up Wednesday: Brain Benefits of Healthy Touch

Wisconsin University psychologist Harry Harlow conducted an experiment dealing with the impact of touch.  In his study a fake mother made of wire and cloth with milk bottles instead of natural breasts, raised baby monkeys.  The babies were fed but not touched in any way (no hugs or holding).  Eventually the babies all showed signs of stress and depression.

However, after researchers brought in an older monkey who hugged and cuddled them the signs of stress and depression vanished from the babies. The touch they received broke the negative reaction chains that feelings of emotional deprivation had caused in their brains.

“In fact, “failure to thrive” in human infants has been shown to result from lack of individualized, nurturing, physically affectionate parental care, whether in an orphanage or due to extreme parental neglect. Babies’ brains expect that they will experience nearly constant physical touch, rocking and cuddling: without it, they just don’t grow. And without receiving kind empathetic care, they are less likely to behave that way towards others as they get older.” Says Maia Szalavitz*

While the obvious applications of healthy loving human touch may be applied to child rearing, I also suggest it is equally important to consider the elderly.  Take time to visit those who live alone or in institutions where they may not be getting regular loving contact, such as a good hug to improve their emotional well-being.

Research also shows that men who kiss their wives goodbye daily; live, on average, 5 years longer than those who do not.  [who thinks of these studies anyhow? But I am not taking any chances because I want my man around those extra five years!].


Wise-up Wednesday Brain Byte: Healthy touch promotes a healthy emotional brain

*HuffPost Healthy Living 4/23/10 How Orphanages Kill Babies–and Why No Child Under 5 Should Be in One


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