Social isolation impacts brain function in significant, sometimes permanent ways

New findings show:

  • Young mice exposed to chronic social isolation demonstrated a long-term deficit in social recognition and an altered circuit between the prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens (Yong-Seok Lee, Seoul National University College of Medicine).
  • Social isolation in adolescent mice led to increased cocaine use and relapse rates, as well as sex-dependent structural changes in the prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens (Lisa A. Briand, Temple University).
  • Social isolation in young rats led to an increase in weight, anxiety, and dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens, but exercise mitigated anxiety and weight gain (Enrique U. Pérez-Cardona, University of Puerto Rico at Carolina).
  • Lower social rank in mice is predictive of greater alcohol intake, but social isolation increases intake for all mice — regardless of rank — and increases the excitability of the basolateral amygdala (Reesha R. Patel, Salk Institute for Biological Studies).
  • A socially monogamous prairie vole model mimicked human responses after the loss of a partner; these behavioral changes may be linked to disturbances in the brain’s oxytocin system (Adam S. Smith, University of Kansas).

“This research shows that social isolation impacts many brain regions and affects many different behaviors, resulting in increased risk for disease,” said Alexa H. Veenema, the director of the Neurobiology of Social Behavior Laboratory and an associate professor at Michigan State University. “The pandemic has had a tremendous effect on our mental health. This research will provide us with insights about which specific neural circuits mediate the behavioral effects induced by social isolation. We can then find ways to restore these neural circuits, counteracting the consequences of social isolation”


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2 responses to “Social isolation impacts brain function in significant, sometimes permanent ways

  1. I hit Like but I don’t like this. That’s not surprising, but is concerning. It’s an epidemic of loneliness, too. Again. Here’s hoping for those who don’t have roommates or family in the same town or a close knit social group that they find connections.

    Today my neighbor offered a hand to shake and a hug, a traditional greeting for Latin Americans. It took me by surprise (as I hoped he’d been vaccinated and wasn’t giving me omicron.) I think this is what it will take — everyone reaching out beyond or comfort zones. (With masks and shots, ideally).

    Happy New Year, Tony!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, Dude! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. There is no question that the damage to we humans by this pandemic is very widespread beyond the statistics and is more hurtful than we realize. It really is a whole new ball game. Particularly interesting for us old folks. Just when we thought we could take it easy. Happy New Year, to you, too!


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