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Couple Holding Hands

Study Suggests Holding Hands May Sync Brain Waves, Reduce Pain

Could holding hands with your significant other reduce physical pain? A recent study suggests that holding hands with a loved one who is in pain may sync breathing, heart rate, and brain wave patterns as well as reduce the pain.


Participants in the study included 22 heterosexual couples between the ages of 23 and 32 who had been together for at least year. All of the couples were put through three scenarios while their brains were monitored using electroencephalography (EEG) caps: sitting together not touching; sitting together holding hands; and sitting in separate rooms. They then went through the same scenarios while a mild heat pain was applied to the woman’s arm.


The researchers found that being in the presence of their significant other led to some brain wave synchronicity in the alpha mu band, a wavelength associated with focused attention. They also noted an increase in synchronicity when the couple held hands. When the woman was in pain and her partner could not touch her, the researchers noted a decrease in brain wave synchronicity.


Finally, the higher the male partner’s empathy levels were, the more brain activity synced and the more the female partner’s pain subsided.


Researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder conducted the study. It was published on March 13, 2018, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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