This study examined the physiological effects of touching wood with various coating with the palm of the hand on brain activity and autonomic nervous activity. Participants were 18 female university students (mean age, 21.7 ± 1.6 years). As an indicator of brain activity, oxyhemoglobin concentrations were measured in the left and right prefrontal cortices using near-infrared time-resolved spectroscopy. Heart rate variability (HRV) and heart rate were used as indicators of autonomic nervous activity. The high-frequency (HF) component of HRV, which reflects parasympathetic nervous activity, and the low-frequency (LF)/HF ratio, which reflects sympathetic nervous activity, were measured. Plates of uncoated, oil-finished, vitreous-finished, urethane-finished, and mirror-finished white oak wood were used as tactile stimuli. After sitting at rest with their eyes closed for 60 s, participants touched the stimuli with their palm for 90 s each. The results indicated that tactile stimulation with uncoated wood calmed prefrontal cortex activity (vs. urethane finish and mirror finish), increased parasympathetic nervous activity (vs. vitreous finish, urethane finish, and mirror finish), and decreased heart rate (vs. mirror finish), demonstrating a physiological relaxation effect. Further, tactile stimulation with oil- and vitreous-finished wood calmed left prefrontal cortex activity and decreased heart rate relative to mirror-finished wood.
Keywords: autonomic nervous activity; coated wood; heart rate; heart rate variability; near-infrared spectroscopy; physiological relaxation; prefrontal cortex activity; preventive medical effect; semantic differential method; tactile.