Social touch, CT touch and massage therapy: A narrative review

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16 Scopus citations


This narrative review summarizes research on three forms of touch that have enhanced development and well-being. These include social touch, CT touch, and massage therapy. The lightest form of touch called CT touch (stimulation of unmyelinated afferents) is important for parent-infant and romantic relationships and for pain syndromes. Social touch including hugging and handholding is also important for those relationships. And the deepest form of touch, i.e. moderate pressure massage therapy, has been important for reducing stress. Most of the CT touch research has focused on identifying optimal velocities of touch and using fMRI scans to identify parts of the brain that are activated by light touch. The social touch literature has been primarily oriented toward the role of touch during early mother-infant interactions and later romantic relationships. The deepest form of touch has been researched for its therapeutic applications including massage therapy for pain syndromes. Each form has several methodological limitations that are reviewed here. Although the literatures on these forms of touch have many differences, they also have similarities, and they share their importance for enhancing development and well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-145
Number of pages23
JournalDevelopmental Review
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019


  • CT touch
  • Massage therapy
  • Social touch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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