Therapists using Ayres’ Sensory Integration to improve the everyday lives of their clients know about the importance of touch. Here is a summary of some of the important literature that supports our practice.
In this incredible study by Maitre et al researchers measured babies reactions to touch. The study investigated both babies born prematurely and those who went full term. The study revealed that a baby’s early experiences of touch can have a long-lasting impact on the way a young developing brain responds to gentle touch when they go home.
Maitre explains that “We certainly hoped to see that more positive touch experiences in the hospital would help babies have a more typical perception of touch when they went home…we were very surprised to find out that if babies experience more painful procedures early in life, their sense of gentle touch can be affected.”
You can read more about this study by Maitre et al in an article entitled “The Dual Nature of Early-Life Experience on Somatosensory Processing in the Human Infant Brain” Current Biology, 2017 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.02.036
“Newborn babies experience the world through touch.”
In an article entitled “The importance of touch in development” Evan L Ardiel, MSc and Catharine H Rankin, PhD wrote the following;
“Organisms need sensory stimulation for normal development. Mechanosensory stimulation has proven to be exceptionally important – a fact demonstrated in organisms across phylogeny.”
“These studies have shown that sensory stimulation can alter many aspects of development by a number of different mechanisms. Reversing the effects of early deprivation is not simple, but the importance of touch is undeniable. Finally, you need not be a worm larvae, rat pup or even human child to reap the rewards of touch. For example, employees receiving chair massages showed a significant reduction in blood pressure, anxiety and job stress, and had increased speed and accuracy on math problems. Furthermore, patients with ailments ranging from burns to eating disorders have been shown to benefit from massage therapy, with reductions in stress hormone levels, anxiety and clinical symptoms; HIV-positive men receiving daily massages had an increased number of immune cells to combat the virus. To paraphrase, a kiss may just be a kiss, a sigh may just be a sigh, but a touch can change your life (or at least your nervous system)!”
“In neonates, touch is a cornerstone of interpersonal interactions and sensory-cognitive development”
You can find out more about The Dual Nature of Early-Life Experience on Somatosensory Processing in the Human Infant Brain, in the Journal of Current Biology