Cortical Dynamics As A Therapeutic Mechanism for Touch Healing
The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
Format: Journal Article
Publication Year: n/a
Source ID: shanti-sources-22976
Zotero Collections: Contexts of Contemplation Project
Abstract: Touch Healing (TH) therapies, defined here as treatments whose primary route of administration is tactile contact and/or active guiding of somatic attention, are ubiquitous across cultures. Despite increasing integration of TH into mainstream medicine through therapies such as Reiki, Therapeutic Touch,TM and somatically focused meditation practices such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, relatively little is known about potential underlying mechanisms. Here, we present a neuroscientific explanation for the prevalence and effectiveness of TH therapies for relieving chronic pain. We begin with a cross-cultural review of several different types of TH treatments and identify common characteristics, including: light tactile contact and/or a somatosensory attention directed toward the body, a behaviorally relevant context, a relaxed context and repeated treatment sessions. These cardinal features are also key elements of established mechanisms of neural plasticity in somatosensory cortical maps, suggesting that sensory reorganization is a mechanism for the healing observed. Consideration of the potential health benefits of meditation practice specifically suggests that these practices provide training in the regulation of neural and perceptual dynamics that provide ongoing resistance to the development of maladaptive somatic representations. This model provides several direct predictions for investigating ways that TH may induce cortical plasticity and dynamics in pain remediation.