BODY ARTICLE

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Slow, Loving Touch is Key to a Healthy Sense of Self

New research finds that slow caresses contribute to maintaining a positive sense of self

The caress—that most instinctive gesture from mother to child or between romantic partners may increase the brain's ability to construct a sense of body ownership and, in turn, play a part in creating and sustaining a healthy sense of self.

Affective touch, characterised by slow speed tactile stimulation of the skin (between 1 and 10cm per second) has been previously correlated with pleasant emotion and has also been seen to improve symptoms of anxiety and other emotional symptoms in certain groups of adults and infants. The latest findings come from a new study published in Frontiers of Psychology, led by Neuropsychoanalysis Centre Director Dr. Aikaterini (Katerina) Fotopoulou, University College London, and NPSA grantee Dr. Paul Mark Jenkinson of the Department of Psychology, University of Hertfordshire in the UK.

The perception of affective touch in the brain is one of a number of interoceptive signals that help us monitor homeostasis. Interoceptive signals play an important role in how the brain learns to construct a mental picture and an understanding of the body, which ultimately helps to create a coherent sense of self. Boosting interoceptive awareness and an individual's sense of body ownership could be key to developing future treatments for conditions such as anorexia and bulimia, with the sensation of 'affective touch' playing an important role.

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