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Virtual Connection

With social distancing now becoming part of ordinary social life and with it the loss of physical contact with people we love but can't touch, you might ask if interactions on a screen have any benefit.

In a recent study conducted just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, neuroscientists compared brain responses of their subjects to touch and non-touch social interaction. The researchers note, “When you touch an object, you learn about its properties, but when you touch a person, you pick up a great deal more information, including the person’s emotional state. It's possible that receiving touch information through visual channels can also activate the brain pathways that communicate physical touch.”

Your brain acts like a mirror network, running the observations you’re making through an internal analysis of your own. When it comes to staying connected, there’s reason to hope that your brain will be able to adapt and take our current mostly virtual social reality in stride.

Lee Masson, Haemy et al; Task-dependent changes in functional connectivity during the observation of social and non-social touch interaction. Cortex; 2020: Vol 125


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