Research has shown that physical touch such as hugging during an infant’s formative years can play a significant role in brain development and cognitive abilities, setting the foundation for future learning. Those who promote this strategy can positively influence a child’s academic and social success.
A study involving 125 infants and conducted at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio examined the effects of gentle physical touch on several aspects of infant development. The results demonstrated that early displays of affection from parents and caregivers have lasting effects on infants’ brain responses to touch.
Touch is the first sense to develop, and supportive experiences such as breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact promote faster and healthier brain growth. It can also help regulate their body temperature, heart rate, and breathing.
Conversely, painful experiences, such as skin punctures and tube insertions, can inhibit the brain’s response to touch stimuli. According to the findings of the study, brain activity is more robust in infants who are shown greater levels of affection. Therefore, gentle interactions are extremely important for the growth of their brains.
The study’s lead researcher, Dr. Nathalie Maitre, stressed how important body contact is for an infant’s brain development. She explained that providing preterm infants with positive, reassuring touch is necessary for their brains.
As research into how our brains process touch in relation to development continues, it becomes increasingly important for parents to prioritize touch with their children.
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