The infants are not the only ones who feel the benefits of a comforting hug, the research showed.
Parents also exhibited significant signs of calmness while hugging their child.
It is known that a hormone called oxytocin, sometimes known as the “love hormone”, is released during close physical contact but the researchers said the time period of their hug experiment was too short for this to play a role.
The scientists believe their research is the first time the physiological impact of hugging infants has been measured and say their work should advance knowledge of parent-child bonding and child psychology.
There could also be an application in the early detection of autism, Hiromasa Funato, one of the researchers on the team, told AFP.
The research centers on the various sensory inputs received during a hug — this is what alters the heart rate, explained Funato.
“Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have difficulties in sensory integration and social recognition,” he said.
“Therefore, our simple hug experiment might be utilized in the early screening of the autonomic function (that regulates unconscious bodily processes), sensory integration, and development of social recognition in infants with high familial risk for ASD,” concluded the scientist.