Stress :: Stressed? Hold spouse’s hand

Reduce stress by holding the hands of your spouse! A University of Virginia neuroscientist has found that women under stress who hold their husbands’ hands show signs of immediate relief, which can clearly be seen on their brain scans.

“This is the first study of the neurological reactions to human touch in a thr eatening situation, and the first study to measure how the brain facilitates the health-enhancing properties of close social relationships,” says Dr. James A. Coan, author of the study, which is published in the December 2006 issue of the journal Psychological Science.

The results showed a large decrease in the brain response to thr eat as a function of spouse handholding, and a limited decrease in this response as a function of stranger handholding.

Moreover, spouse handholding effects varied as a function of marital quality, with women in the very highest quality marriages benefiting from a very powerful decrease in thr eat-related brain activity, including a strong decrease in the emotional (affective) component of the brain?s pain processing circuits.

Coan is expanding his functional MRI studies in collaboration with the U.Va. Department of Radiology, to continue his exploration of the neuroscience of emotion and close social relationships.

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