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Description: Would you pay money for a 30 to 45 minute session of cuddling (just cuddling no sex)? Physical touch seems to have the effect of promoting the release of oxytocin, sometime referred to as the “cuddle hormone” in the media and which seems to act to, among other things, reduce stress levels. So are there effects of physical contact in positive social relationships?

Sources: The Globe and Mail, CTV News

Date: March 13, 2015

Cuddle Winnipeg

View Video: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/news-video/video-ctv-winnipeg-cuddling-company-coming-to-winnipeg/article22646249/

Video Source: CTV News Winnipeg

Links:    Globe and Mail Cuddling Company Article: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/news-video/video-ctv-winnipeg-cuddling-company-coming-to-winnipeg/article22646249/

Globe and Mail Oxytocin and Anorexia http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/is-the-cuddle-hormone-the-key-to-treating-anorexia/article17475739/

Concordia University Study Description: http://www.concordia.ca/news/media-relations/news-releases/cunews/main/releases/2014/01/21/oxytocin-and-oversensitivity.html

Is touch important or valuable in human experience? It certainly varies culturally. North American couples eating together in a restaurant touch twice, on average, during the meal whereas Parisian couples touch 110 times and Puerto Rican couples touch 180 times. SO is touch important? While paying for a cuddle may seem a bit odd there may be research suggesting that such physical contacts actually promote the release of hormones with positive physical effects. The Vancouver company offering cuddles for pay and making enough to consider expanding into other Canadian cities suggests something is working. Kerstin Uvnas-Moberg has extensively studies the effects of the release of oxytocin and points out that it is released during child birth, bonding, breast feeding and other forms of close contact and associated with reductions in anxiety, stress, and addictions.

In a study by Carleton University Psychologist Christopher Cardoso students had their oxytocin levels increases using a nasal spray showed. It showed that many of them became oversensitive to social cues and suggesting that the contexts in which oxytocin level bumps occur may be important. Another study found that patients struggling with anorexia were less focused on food and body image after receiving a nasal spray of oxytocin.

So, what do you think? Is touch important? Well, maybe think about the general observation that there are (of course) interactions between our environments and our internal physiological functioning and then ask yourself how then interactions actually occur… it’s not all drugs and food.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sorts of context effects might be important when looking at the effects of cuddling on human hormonal activity?
  2. How might the hormone oxytocin act physiologically to produce the broad range of effects noted in the articles and media linked here?
  3. How might we think about oxytocin and its effects? Does calling it “the cuddle drug” as the media has dubbed it make any sense at all?

References (Read Further):

Uvnas-Moberg, Kerstin (2003) The Oxytocin Factor: Tapping the Hormone of Calm, Love, and Healing, Da Capo Press, http://www.amazon.ca/The-Oxytocin-Factor-Tapping-Hormone/dp/0738207489.

Kim, Youl-Ri, Kim, Chan-Hyung, Cardi, Valentina, Eom, Jin-Sup, Seong, Yoori, Treasure, Janet, (2014) Intranasal oxytocin attenuates attentional bias for eating and fat shape stimuli in patients with anorexia nervosa, Psychoneuroendocrinology, 44, 133-142. http://www.psyneuen-journal.com/article/S0306-4530%2814%2900070-5/abstract.

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