Research: KERR and co-workers,

Listed in Issue 141


KERR and co-workers, Division for Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA, have reviewed (101 references) cortisol dynamics and touch healing.

Abstract: Touch Healing therapies, treatments whose primary route of administration is tactile contact and/or active guiding of somatic attention, are ubiquitous across cultures. Despite increasing integration of touch healing into mainstream medicine through therapies such as Reiki, Therapeutic Touch and somatically focused meditation practices such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, relatively little is known about potential underlying mechanisms. This review presents a neuroscientific explanation for the prevalence and effectiveness of these therapies for relieving chronic pain. It begins with a cross-cultural review of several different types of touch healing treatments and identifies common characteristics, including: light tactile contact and/or a somatosensory attention directed toward the body, 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 touch healing may induce cortical plasticity and dynamics in pain reduction.






Kerr CE, Wasserman RH, Moore CI. Cortical dynamics as a therapeutic mechanism for touch healing. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine 13 (1): 59-66, Jan-Feb 2007.

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