New Study Shows Social Isolation Affects Brain Function as Well as Mental Health

social isolation affects brain function as well as mental health

The latest study on social isolation shows that this affects brain function as well as mental health and behavior. The study was performed by researchers at the University of Chicago, and it was titled Social Emotion and the Brain. The research was presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting. The study examined loneliness and brain activity by using fMRI scans and combining the scan results with other relevant data. According to University of Chicago Tiffany and Margaret Blake Professor in Psychology John Cacioppo explained “Given their feelings of social isolation, lonely individuals may be left to find relative comfort in nonsocial rewards.” People who experience loneliness and social isolation have significantly less activity in the ventral striatum, which is the brain region that is associated with rewards, than people who are not socially isolated when they are shown photos of people who are in pleasant settings.

The latest study on social isolation was published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience under the title “In the Eye of the Beholder: Individual Differences in Perceived Social Isolation Predict Regional Brain Activation to Social Stimuli.” There were five co-authors who contributed to the study and paper. The study involved 23 female undergraduates who were evaluated and tested for social isolation. During the fMRI scans the study participants were shown pictures that were unpleasant or pleasant, and their brain function and activity was recorded. According to one researcher “The study raises the intriguing possibility that loneliness may result from reduced reward-related activity in the ventral striatum in response to social rewards.”

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