2nd March, 2018: Researchers of University of Colorado at Boulder, USA and University of Haifa, Israel have found that when a romantic partner holds hands with a partner in pain, their brain waves synchronize and it sooths the pain of the partner. The results are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The study illustrates the power and importance of human touch.
Humans have developed a lot of ways to communicate in the modern world and we have fewer physical interactions. But most of them fail to produce interpersonal synchronization, which happens when people physiologically mirror the people they are with and when their brain waves also synchronize. The experiments showed that when romantic couples holding hands produced synchronization of the alpha and mu bands. Further, it was observed that the heart rate and respiratory synchronization also take place while holding hands. The more synchronized their brains, the more pain of the partner subsided.
"It appears that pain totally interrupts this interpersonal synchronization between couples and touch brings it back," says Goldstein, the main author of the work.
It was proven that the empathetic touch makes a person feel understood, which could activate pain-killing reward mechanisms in the brain. "Interpersonal touch may blur the borders between self and other," the researchers told.