The study said that these types of touch may increase the brain's ability to construct a sense of body ownership and, in turn, play a part in creating and sustaining a healthy sense of self.
The study, of 52 healthy adults, used a common experimental technique known as the rubber hand illusion, in which participants' brains are tricked into believing that a strategically placed rubber hand is their own.
As they watch the rubber hand being stroked in synchrony with their own, they begin to think that the fake hand belongs to them. This technique demonstrates the changeable nature of the brain's perception of the body.
Dr. Aikaterini (Katerina) Fotopoulou, University College London and her team adapted the 'rubber hand' technique to incorporate four different types of touch, including a synchronized and asynchronized, slow, affective touch and a faster neutral touch, again in synchronous and asynchronous patterns.
Participants were also asked to complete a standardized 'embodiment' questionnaire, to measure their subjective experience during the experiment.
The results confirmed previous findings that slow, light touch is perceived as being more pleasant than fast touch. More importantly, the study demonstrated that slow tactile stimulation made participants more likely to believe that the rubber hand was their own, compared with the faster neutral touch.
The study has been published online in Frontiers of Psychology.
--ANI (Posted on 09-10-2013)