Linking palms is doing much more than showing someone you care about them.
A new study done by pain researchers has found that this simple gesture can reduce your romantic partner’s physical distress.
As the study says, “Reach for the hand of a loved one in pain and not only will your breathing and heart rate synchronize with theirs, your brain wave patterns will couple up too”.
The study was done as a collaboration between researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Haifa. It involved 22 heterosexual couples, age 23 to 32 who had been together for at least one year.
Pavel Goldstein, a postdoctoral pain researcher in the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab at CU Boulder says he came up with the experiment during the delivery of his daughter. He discovered that when he held his wife’s hand during the birth, it eased her pain.
“I wanted to test it out in the lab: Can one really decrease pain with touch, and if so, how?” he comments.
Sitting Together and Apart
Couples involved were put through a variety of two-minute scenarios involving electroencephalography (EEG) caps that measured their brainwave activity.
They were asked to sit together but not touch. Partners were also directed to sit together and hold hands; and to sit in separate rooms. The scenarios were then repeated as the woman was subjected to mild heat pain on her arm.
The study is part of a growing body of research that’s exploring a phenomenon known as “interpersonal synchronization.”
As humans, we tend to physiologically mirror the people we’re with. The study was the first offer new insight into the role brain-to-brain coupling may play in touch-induced analgesia, or healing touch.
“We have developed a lot of ways to communicate in the modern world and we have fewer physical interactions,” said Goldstein. “This paper illustrates the power and importance of human touch.”
So, is holding hand a substitute for Advil? Maybe not. But it can definitely do some good to reach out and hold on, if only for a moment.
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