Monday, 6 April 2009

Fashionably scientific

For the hard-core fashionable scientists out there, this one is for you....

Science T-shirts
Made with molecules

I absolutely love it!

The benefits of hugging

What prompted me to write this blog post was a small article I read in the paper on the weekend about an artist named Keeta Dean Dixon who designed an interactive piece called ‘The Hug Wall’. Attached to long fleece gloves is a wall made from stretch of tarp. The movable gloves allow the ‘hugger’ to extend their arms through the wall and hug a ‘hugee’ without any skin-to-skin contact and visual identification. This ideas has apparently been well-received.

So if you didn’t know it already, human touch is essential for development and growth in babies and young children. Human touch is also beneficial in adults. Touching can take various forms but the form I will write about today is the act of hugging. A hug can indicate love and affection towards another or it can be a physical way of expressing support. A 2005 study examined the effects of ‘warm contact*’ on individuals in relationships by assessing their levels of cortisol (a ‘stress’ hormone), sympathetic activity by measuring norepinephrine (another ‘stress’ hormone), oxytocin (a feel-good hormone) and blood pressure both before and after ‘warm contact’. The results of the study found that levels of oxytocin were increased in both men and women after the period of partner support (ie. warm contact) compared to levels measured prior to partner support. Interestingly, results showed that only women presented a link between greater levels of oxytocin and lower levels of sympathetic activity and blood pressure suggesting warm contact/partner support was cardio-protective for women.
So there you have it girls. I’m sure you knew that a hug made you feel better but now you can be assured that it decreases your chances of acquiring heart disease at the same time.

*‘Warm contact’ was defined by couples sitting close together in a love-seat which was followed by couples talking about their closeness, watching a romantic video seen previously (non-pornographic) and finally concluded with a lingering hug.

(1) Grewen KM, Girdler SS, Amico J and Light KC (2005) Effects of partner support on resting oxytocin, cortisol, norepinephrine, and blood pressure before and after warm partner contact. Psychosomatic Medicine. 67. p.531-538.
(2) Image: