The Weird Science of Loneliness and Our Brains

1/18/2022 8:35:00 PM

Social contact isn’t just nice to have—it might be a fundamental need that our brains are hardwired to seek out: (From 2021)

Wired Uk, Neuroscience

Social contact isn’t just nice to have—it might be a fundamental need that our brains are hardwired to seek out: (From 2021)

Social isolation has been linked to poorer physical and mental health , but scientists are finally starting to understand its neurological impact.

.We’ve known since the 1980s that people who are more socially isolated tend to have worse health, but we still don’t knowwhyloneliness is so closely linked to our health. Is it that isolated people tend to have other risk factors for certain diseases, or is there something about loneliness itself that rearranges the wiring of our brains, slowly wearing away at our health? For loneliness researchers the pandemic has provided an unprecedented natural experiment in the impact that social isolation might have on our brains. As millions of people across the world emerge from months of reduced social contact, a new neuroscience of loneliness is starting to figure out why social relationships are so crucial to our health.

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We’ve known since the 1980s that people who are more socially isolated tend to have worse health, but we still don’t know why loneliness is so closely linked to our health. Is it that isolated people tend to have other risk factors for certain diseases, or is there something about loneliness itself that rearranges the wiring of our brains, slowly wearing away at our health? For loneliness researchers the pandemic has provided an unprecedented natural experiment in the impact that social isolation might have on our brains. Go to the"Voice Access" section of your device's Accessibility menu to set it up. As millions of people across the world emerge from months of reduced social contact, a new neuroscience of loneliness is starting to figure out why social relationships are so crucial to our health. Terrible play call — Booger (@ESPNBooger) Still others couldn't help but question what this means for Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones. Although the link between loneliness and poor health is well-established, scientists have only recently been able to take the first glimpses of what social isolation looks like in our brains. On the Accessibility page, tap Voice Control. It’s a discovery that started with a failed experiment. The other new disclosure consists of two vulnerabilities in a power system controller from industrial control manufacturer Eltek called Smartpack R Controller.

As part of her PhD at Imperial College London, Gillian Matthews was trying to find out how drug addiction affected the connections between specific neurons in a part of the brain called the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN). Credit: Screenshot: Apple Turn Voice Control on if it's not already, then tap Custom Commands. Dak - Too much around him on offense for this dud. Matthews divided the mice she was studying into two groups—one she injected with cocaine, and the other with a saltwater solution—but no matter what she tried, she kept seeing that the DRN neuron connections were growing stronger in both groups of mice. These new neural connections, Matthews realized, had little to do with drugs. Write in what you want to say to swipe up on your FYP; like Shannon in the video, I put in"Next. Both groups of mice had been isolated for 24 hours before the start of the experiment. First question to Kellen Moore on head coaching interviews: "WTF was that call??" — Andrew Brandt (@AndrewBrandt) January 17, 2022 Within minutes of the game ending, Cowboys’ defensive tackle Neville Gallimore took to twitter, asking all “hate and slander” be directed at him, not his family. What Matthews was seeing was the effect that social isolation had on the brains she was studying. For application, you can just choose TikTok and that'll be the only app this command works on. The bugs Red Team X found both relate to simple missing web protections that could allow a hacker on the same network as a device to run malicious Javascript payloads and potentially manipulate or sabotage the controllers.

This accidental discovery opened up a new way of thinking about loneliness—if we could see the traces of social isolation in the brains of mice, it meant that loneliness didn’t just describe a state in the outside world, it could also point to something on the inside too. Matthews’ realization shunted her career in a new direction. Now you don't have to fiddle your phone with wet or dirty hands, or be subjected to the same TikTok over and over ever again. Put it all on me, all I ask is you leave my family out of this. Leaving her research on drug addiction to one side, in 2013 she went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to join Kay Tye’s laboratory. Tye is a neuroscientist focused on understanding the neural basis of emotion, and she’s also one of the pioneers of optogenetics—a technique that uses genetically engineered proteins inserted into brain cells to give researchers the ability to turn neurons on and off by shining light through fiber-optic cables into the brains of live animals. The approach lets scientists activate regions of the brain in real time and watch how the animals respond. Such “supply-chain attacks” that prey on the tech industry's interconnected ecosystem are difficult to fully defend against and represent one of the security industry's most intractable challenges.

“At the point I joined the lab, optogenetics was really exploding, and it opened up so much more potential for the studies that you could do,” Matthews says. Armed with this new technique, Matthews and Tye wanted to figure out how DRN neurons influenced mice during social isolation. When the researchers stimulated the neurons, the animals were more likely to seek out other mice . When they suppressed the same neurons, even isolated animals lost the desire for social interaction. It was as if Matthews and Tye had located the neural switch that controlled the animals’ desire for social interaction—it turned on when they were isolated and turned back off again when their social cravings were satisfied. “Most internal red teams do not have the time, resources, or skill sets to regularly hunt for zero day vulnerabilities,” Owens says.

Their discovery could radically change our understanding of loneliness. “Taking that idea suggests that there are mechanisms in place to help maintain social contact in the same way that there are mechanisms in place to make sure we maintain our food intake or our water intake,” Matthews says. It suggests that social contact isn’t just nice to have—it’s a fundamental need that our brains are hardwired to seek out. This is already borne out in studies on honeybees , ants, mice, and rats. “Without the full level of social contact, survival reduces in numerous species,” Matthews says.8 billion users relying on Facebook to protect their data and communications, the company must make every effort to ensure that its own products and those of its vendors are as secure as possible.

In 2020 another MIT neuroscientist released a paper suggesting that human brains respond to social isolation in a way similar to Matthews’ mice. Livia Tomova recruited 40 volunteers and asked them to turn in their smartphones, tablets, and laptops and spend 10 hours in a room by themselves. The volunteers could occupy themselves with puzzle books and writing materials, but they weren’t allowed access to any fiction that might contain a hint of social contact that might take the edge off their isolation. If the volunteers needed to use the bathroom, they had to wear earplugs that prevented them from overhearing any conversations on the way. “We tried to create a scenario where people would really not have any sort of input,” says Tomova, who is now at the University of Cambridge.

Optogenetics is too invasive to use on humans, but instead Tomova took fMRI scans of her volunteers’ brains. When the isolated volunteers were shown photos of social cues, the regions of their brains associated with cravings lit up with activity in the same way that the brains of hungry people lit up when they were shown pictures of food . The area of the brain that Tomova focused on is rich in dopamine neurons, which drive our motivations and expectations of the world around us. When our brains anticipate a rewarding activity—like eating or social contact—these neurons activate in anticipation. But if we don’t get these interactions, then our brains experience a negative, craving-like feeling.

Tomova says that this might explain the negative consequences of long-term isolation. “If you are in a state of prolonged stress, the same adaptations that are in the first place healthy and necessary, will actually become detrimental because they’re not designed to be long-term states,” she says. “The idea of the cravings is that the goal should be to seek out others and reinstate social contact.” These findings raise all kinds of questions for understanding of social isolation and its impact on health. Are there neurological differences between people who experience short-term isolation and those who have been isolated for long stretches of time? What kinds of social interactions satisfy our social cravings? Is a video call enough to quell our need for social contact, or do some people require an in-person connection to really feel satiated? Despite knowing about the link between social isolation and health for decades, we don’t have satisfying answers to any of these questions yet.

“There is this evidence that has been around a long time, but the unfortunate part is that it has been so underrecognized,” says Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a psychology professor at Brigham Young University in the US and the author of two major studies on social isolation and health. “We have a lot of data that very robustly shows that both isolation and loneliness put us at increased risk for premature mortality—and conversely, that being socially connected is protective and reduces our risk,” she says. Holt-Lunstad thinks the pandemic could be a turning point in our understanding of loneliness. “I’m really hopeful that this is a huge wake-up call, you know, a point of reflection for us to learn from this,” she says. In 2018 the UK government launched its first .