Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Give your #brain a #hug for National Hug a Friend Day

Hi everyone,

I hope you consider your brain a friend of yours. If so, give it a big hug as my illustration below does.

Do you give your friends and/or family a hug when you see them? Well National Hug a Friend Day is an unofficial holiday held on April 26th to celebrate such embraces. In my research so far, I haven’t found out how Hug a Friend Day came in to existence but leave a comment below if you know or if I find something out, I’ll update this post.

The sense of touch can generate two reactions. One is experiencing the touch itself recognizing whether it is rough or smooth, cold, warm, slow, fast, bumpy, etc. The second aspect is the feeling we get from who is touching us. In other words, the feeling one would get from hugging a friend is different than when hugging a crush or someone you don’t like. Have you experienced that difference?

On the surface of our brain is an area known as the Somatosensory Cortex (colored in orange in the above illustration)[1]. Here, the brain maps to all parts of our body which is also visually referred to as a Homunculus[2]. The Somatosensory Cortex, located on the surface of our brain, not only gives us a physical assessment of what is going on (i.e. I feel my fingers touching smooth plastic keyboard keys) but also an emotional component.

There was a study done at the California Institute of Technology exploring the emotional component of touch[3]. Another layer is the feeling of (dis)comfort we feel when we are being touched. While it had been known that the Somatosensory Cortex assesses the physical, it also attaches meaning to the touch. In the study, self-identified heterosexual men were subject to a staff person caressing their leg. However, the men didn’t see who was actually touching their leg as they were in a fMRI machine where two videos were shown. One video was of an attractive woman shown to reach down to touch the male volunteer's leg and the other video was of a man who reached down to touch their leg. The Somatosensory Cortex became active when anticipating the touch.

Hope you won't be creeped out when I reach out to hug you!!!


Michelle Hunter
Contemporary Artist
Tel: (646) 504-5034

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1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somatosensory_system
2: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensory_homunculus
3: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120604155709.htm

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