Parent's Touch Can Mold Child's Brain Development Until Adulthood

First Posted: Jul 30, 2016 05:00 AM EDT

A parent's touch is powerful and goes beyond forming bonds between parents and their children. From the first breathe of life, it is natural that a child would want to be touched. Studies show that a parent's touch goes from boosting a baby's development to shaping its brain in the future. A parent's touch is a very strong communicator in channeling emotions and forming an intimate bond.

From Harry Harlow's famous experiment in the 1950s using young monkeys, he showed that the newborn's craved for a parent's touch. The baby monkeys would often cling to a soft dummy even if their milk came from a different source, The Adoption History Project reported.

Researchers from Singapore and Germany used brain images to see if receiving a parent's touch frequently affects the human brain in an observable way. Annett Schirmer, Jens Brauer, and their colleagues wrote that their study explored a parent's touch directly at children can affect the child beyond social aspects, but shapes the functionality of the developing brain.

The study was composed of 40 children around the age of 5 and their mothers. The children were ordered to play farm toys for 10 minutes and observed how many times a mother touched their child and vice versa. After a few days, researchers scanned each child's brain at rest to see its activity. The researchers focused on the region of the "social brain."

The region is a sum of neuronal networks interconnected that tells difference between a person, place, or thing. It is the region of the brain that is responsible for making people behave in a certain manner during social occasions. Researchers observed that the brain activity on the social region had stronger neuronal networks for children who received a parent's touch often.

Schirmer said that a study on the positive effects of touch in infants have already been done. He claims that their research specifically focuses on the relation of a parent's touch on the social region of the brain, Oxford Journal reported. The study found that a parent's touch frequently affecting the social region of the brain can be extended up to older age groups. It's nearly impossible to confirm the relationship of cause and effect between a parent's touch and a newborn's brain.

However, the study conducted animal studies and suggested a link does exist between a parent's touch and the growth of the developing brain. A parent's touch that is gentle and affectionate reaches the brain via nerve fibers found on the skin called tactile nerves. In animal studies, it suggests that these tactile nerves are activated by a gentle touch and it triggers a rippling effect of hormones in the brain.

A parent's touch is extremely important that can lead to many benefits on children. Schirmer said that infants and young kids crave for comfort from parents, so parents should give it to them.

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