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August 12, 2008

The Importance of Touch

We have all heard the debate of "nature vs. nurture." Scientists are now seeing actual chemical changes in the body from environmental factors, such as touch. Dr. Frances Champagne, of Columbia University, has conducted research which demonstrates that maternal touch or tactile stimulation (in rats, rhesus monkeys and humans) causes proteins to be created. Those proteins lie on top of the genetic material causing an epigenetic mechanism to switch the DNA from "off" to "on", in turn causing production of additional proteins that improve the ability to handle stress and increase sociability. Scientists don't fully understand the biochemical pathways, nor do they see a classically inherited gene. The structure of the DNA remains unchanged, but the behavior is passed down to the next generation. Nurtured offspring become nurturing parents to their own offspring.

Epigenetic applications have been shown to help reduce repetitive behavior in studies of people with autism.

Pharmaceutical companies are trying to reproduce what nature already does. So, be sure to hug your child often!

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