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Yagmur Idil Ozdemir, November 13 2020

Touch can tap into our social and emotional well-being

The link between oxytocin, CT afferent fibers and our wellbeing

Oxytocin is a hormone that has wide-reaching importance in regulating our social well-being and mental wellness. Oxytocin is a type of neuropeptide, which is a signalling molecule in our nervous system. Oxytocin is released to several regions that are important in the regulation of social well-being and emotions (Uvnäs-Moberg et al., 2015)

Oxytocin is released from the paraventricular nucleus and supraoptic nuclei within the hypothalamus of the brain. Oxytocin can have multiple different effects depending on the area of the brain that it is released to:

With all these wide-reaching effects of oxytocin in mind, researchers believe interventions that target the oxytocin system can create long term mental-wellness effects  (Uvnäs-Moberg et al., 2015). Natural oxytocin release is seen in a variety of activities associated with pleasure such as breastfeeding, sex, self-soothing, food intake, and friendly social interactions, even between humans and dogs. 

While oxytocin is linked to such positive mental events, it also responds widely to pleasant somatosensory stimuli. A wide body of research shows oxytocin release in response to touch and warmth.

Oxytocin levels before and after a 10 min brush stroke on rats.
Figure from (Stock and Uvnäs-Moberg, 1988)

Researchers believe that the CT-fibers are the likely mediators of touch-mediated Oxytocin release and through this relationship, touch has effects in our emotional well-being (Cascio et al., 2019, Walker et al 2017

For more information on CT-fibers and their role in touch and why touch can make us happy, see our previous blog post 
Touch makes us happy

The social positive effects of touch we previously mentioned all implicate oxytocin release. For example, research shows that skin to skin contact between mother and infants  (Matthiesen et al., 2001), as well as intimate partners  triggers oxytocin release.

Connecting the dots between pleasant touch, CT-fibers and Oxytocin, we can see that any intervention aiming to stimulate CT-fibers can have long lasting positive effects on our mental and social well-being by tapping into established hormonal mechanisms of our brain. 

Researchers believe that the CT-fibers are the likely mediators of touch-mediated Oxytocin release and through this relationship, touch has effects in our emotional well-being (Cascio et al., 2019, Walker et al 2017

Our technology aims to tap into this naturally occurring response of oxytocin to touch.

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Yagmur Idil Ozdemir

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