That Lovin’ Feeling

What happens when love and touch meet?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Love isn’t always about words. We say a lot in the way we touch and hold loved ones. These physical contacts release feel-good brain chemicals like oxytocin. But do those brain responses depend on WHO touches you?

Ann-Kathrin Kreuder and colleagues at the University of Bonn in Germany explored this idea. Around one hundred couples participated. One partner inhaled either oxytocin or a placebo. Then, while in an MRI machine, volunteers were told either their PARTNER or a STRANGER would touch their calves. Actually, it was a researcher who touched them while shielded from view.

Researchers measured activity in different brain areas while they were being touched..

Findings? Participants who received oxytocin and thought their partners stroked them felt more pleasant. Certain brain circuits for touch activated more if participants thought their partners touched them. Those given the placebo were indifferent about whether their loved one or a stranger touched them.

The researchers think that Oxytocin may make a partner’s touch feel more rewarding and a stranger’s touch less so.

Give touch a try! You’ll have more warm and fuzzy relationships …fueled by oxytocin!