Sunday, December 13, 2020

The study of touch & emotion.

The word "contagion" comes from the Latin for "with" and "touch", so it is no wonder social touch is demonised in a pandemic. But at what cost? The neuroscientists Francis McGlone and Merle Fairhurst study nerve fibres called C-tactile afferents, which are conceiitrated in hard-to-reach places such as the back and shoulders. They wire social touch into a complex reward system, so that when we are stroked, touched, hugged or patted, oxytocin is released, lowering the heart rate and inhibiting the production ofcortisone. "Very subtle requirements/' says McGlone, "to keep you on an even plane/'