Affection deprivation: What happens to our bodies when we go without touch?

Helen Coffey, ‘Affection deprivation: What happens to our bodies when we go without touch?’, https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/touch-skin-hunger-hugs-coronavirus-lockdown-isolation-ctactile-afferent-nerve-a9501676.html, The Independent (8 May 2020)

The loss of touch is not just a “feeling” – it is a real, neurological issue, according to scientists. (…) All human primates are wired for touch, whether we like or not. (…) Skin hunger (…) is a layman’s term for what, in research, is known as ‘affection deprivation’, which is associated with a range of psychological and even physical health detriments. (…) The effects of touch are physiological, bioelectrical and biochemical. (…) Moving the skin (as, for example, in hugging, massaging and exercise) stimulates pressure receptors which are transmitted to the vagus nerve, the largest cranial nerve that has many branches in the body. Increased vagal activity calms the nervous system. (…) It has an optimum speed at which it likes to be touched (3-5cm per second) and an optimal temperature (the same as body temperature, meaning skin on skin works best). (…) The effects of a lack of touch, particularly in babies and children, can be heartbreaking. (…) When you’re not touched, there’s no overt lockdown of the system. (…) Knowing the science behind it may not solve the problem, but it does at least explain why those living alone may have been feeling the loss of something they couldn’t quite put their finger on.

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