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The health of hand holding

When trying to come up with my column for this week several ideas went through my head. But the one that stuck was the large amount of couples I see walking in Hot Springs that are holding hands. I have lived in several places in my life and in various regions of the country and I think Hot Springs has more hand holders than anywhere I have ever seen.

So you know me I did some reading up on the science behind holding hands. I found a study, by researchers with Colorado University Boulder and University of Haifa that was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study found that when you reach for the hand of a loved one in pain not only will your breathing and heart rate synchronize with theirs, your brain wave patterns will couple up too. The research also found that the more empathy a comforting partner feels for a partner in pain, the more their brainwaves fall into sync. And the more those brain waves sync, the more the pain goes away.

The project is the brain child of Pavel Goldstein, a postdoctoral pain researcher in the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab at CU Boulder. Goldstein got the idea during the delivery of his first child. He noticed that when he held his wife's hand it eased her pain.

Goldstein said, "I wanted to test it out in the lab: Can one really decrease pain with touch, and if so, how?"

Their research consisted of finding couples who had been together for at least one year and monitoring their brainwaves with electroencephalography (EEG). They monitored the couples as they sat next to each other without touching, holding hands and holding hands while the female subjects were placed in mild discomfort from heat on their arms.

The researched showed that brain activity began to sync by just sitting close to one another. The syncing increased dramatically when the couples held hands. When the mild discomfort was tested they found that the female's pain decreased significantly when the couples held hands. They believe that holding hands may activate painkilling reward mechanisms in the brain.

Interesting research I must say. Perhaps Dr. Goldstein and the folks at CU Boulder have stumbled onto not only a great pain reliever but also a great communication tool. Do you remember a book from a few years ago entitled "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" by John Gray? In that book Dr. Gray stated that most common relationship problems between men and women are a result of fundamental psychological differences between the sexes.

The holding hands thing could become the translator for our two planets and help us begin to understand each other better. Which would be revolutionary if it could work.

Imagine that the next time your wife told you to not get her flowers you could just grab her hand and the translator would tell you what she is really saying is you better buy me flowers if you know what is good for you.

Ladies think of the possibilities when your husband comes home from work and just gives you a grunt. You can take his hand and the empathy translators in your hands would tell you what he really means is that it was a really tough day at work and he just needs to watch SportsCenter to relax.

Dr. Goldstein may have ended one of the longest running wars in the history of the world. He may have found the peace pipe for the battle of the sexes.

So the next time you really don't understand what your significant other is saying just reach out and hold their hand. It may not give you the complete answer you are looking for but I bet both of you will appreciate it and get comfort from it.

Editorial on 11/04/2018

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