Bessel van der Kolk, MD

Blog PostScientific Publication

Posted Sunday March, 29th 2020

Marty Teicher on "How childhood trauma affects interpersonal distance & responsivity to touch"

Martin Teicher

Childhood Maltreatment Hampers Interpersonal Distance and Social Touch in Adulthood.

In this issue, Maier et al. (1) present results from a fascinating study that is a pleasure to read. Unlike the vast majority of studies on the clinical and neurobiological consequences of maltreatment, the authors did not focus on the usual, albeit important, array of symptoms or diagnoses, such as depression, anxiety, and substance use. Rather, they took a deeper dive to ascertain how maltreatment may modify some key individual differences that may underlie psychiatric vulnerabilities. Briefly, they found that relatively severe exposure to childhood maltreatment was associated with preference for increased interpersonal distance and less pleasurable responses to touch, particularly moderately fast touch that is involved in tactile discrimination. Further, they found that moderately fast touch was associated with exaggerated brain activation in the right superior temporal gyrus and right posterior insula, which correlated with lower comfort ratings. In addition, they report that slow, generally comforting touch, was associated, in the severely maltreated, with a blunted right hippocampal response.

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