The Power of Touch: Enough to Change Your DNA?
Does touch change your DNA?
That’s what I’m investigating in this blog. I’ll break down the key findings of a 2017 research study, Moore, Sarah R., et al. “Epigenetic Correlates of Neonatal Contact in Humans.” Development and Psychopathology, vol. 29, no. 05, 2017, pp. 1517–1538., doi:10.1017/s0954579417001213. Basically, there’s been a lot of animal research (especially with rats) that’s looked at how touch in infancy effects DNA later on and these researchers wanted to explore the implications on humans.
They found an association between the amount of comforting touch five week old infants received and differences between chronological age and biological age at four years, which could have implications on a child’s development.
Babies with high levels of distress who received less contact showed a younger biological age than their actual, chronological age. The study didn’t examine the impact on child behavior and development but the authors suggest that there could be a correlation to developmental delays.
Babies with high levels of distress who received high contact care didn’t show any significant differences in chronological and biological age and there weren’t any significant changes in the DNA markers researchers tested for any of the groups.
What does it mean for us in the real world? Well, this study supports the idea that holding and nurturing your baby is a good thing, especially if they’re distressed. But we don’t have enough information to draw any further conclusions.
So, can touch change your DNA? Maybe. But so might a whole lotta other factors. However, I think there’s nothing wrong with cuddling and providing your baby comfort. One day we might understand exactly how the biology works but for now, the exact implications on human development remain unknown.
Bottom line for me? Providing comfort to babies in distress is only natural so let’s keep following those nurturing instincts.