In addition, holding hands with someone can help comfort you and your brain through painful situations. One fMRI study scanned married women as they were warned that they were about to get a small electric shock. While anticipating the painful shocks, the brain showed a predictable pattern of response in pain and worrying circuits, with activation in the insula, anterior cingulate, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. During a separate scan, the women either held their husbands’ hands or the hand of the experimenter. When a subject held her husband’s hand, the threat of shock had a smaller effect. The brain showed reduced activation in both the anterior cingulate cortex and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex— that is, less activity in the pain and worrying circuits. In addition, the stronger the marriage, the lower the discomfort-related insula activity.
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I am a massage therapist maintaining my own practice as well as working at a Chiropractor’s office. In the Chiropractor’s office a lot of people come through my door needing help. If I have a person come through whose tight, contracted muscles are manifesting pain in their bodies, and the response time of the muscles to the massage is not good; and, that person is particularly stressed with no change in external circumstances available, ie: they can’t change their job, remove the stress of caring for an ailing parent etc, one of the first things I recommend to them is to remove extraneous noise from their environment. Turn off the radio in the car, turn down the AC fan in the car (I live in Texas where yesterday we set a record high, so this one is asking a lot!) turn your cell phone ringer to vibrate, etc. It is well know that noise/sound that we are mostly unaware of can act as a stressor in our lives and have an effect on the body and how we react to stress. This is fairly well known. But what struck me about this report is the information about when the tempo of the music is increased by 10% and how the body/people reacted. I drew an immediate corollary to how our body/selves respond to the increased “pace of life” present in a lot of the patients I work with who are mildly stressed and then heavily stressed, to the test subjects’ reaction to 10% increase in tempo with a 30 minute workout and runners’ doing the “hard run” reaction to music. If I equate the patients with moderate stress in their lives and their response, both to the stress in their lives and their muscles response to massage to the test subjects response to the 10% increase in the tempo, their response is often the same: the pace of life (moderately increased stress, more noise/sound let into the life) increases (the music is played faster) ” the participants chose to accept, and even prefer, a greater degree of effort.” The patients response to moderate stress is “I can do this.” On the other hand, those who are in a “hard run” stage (lots of un-removable stress) noise is like the sound of a gnat, bothersome, but not even registered as a factor in their retention of stress. It’s a small thing asking a patient to remove some noise from their life – even if it’s only for 5 to 15 minutes on their way to work – but it can be equated to the “hard run” people enjoying listening to the music. I’d be interested to know if there has been any research done on the effects of music, or listening to music, on dealing with stress and/or if extraneous or ambient noise factors into how our minds and bodies deal with stress.