The Covid-19 pandemic made people feel more lonely than ever, as they were locked in their homes, wanting to reunite with loved ones. This instinct to evade the inevitable loneliness in these moments is deeply rooted in our brains, and a new study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience suggests that our desire for social interaction generates a neurological response similar to a hungry person who wants food.
Livia Tomova, a cognitive neurologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and her colleagues conducted a study in which they had a test group of 40 people who fasted (fasted) for ten hours. At the end of the day, the hungry subjects were shown pictures of pizza and chocolate cake while receiving a brain scan, Bethany Brookshire told Science News.
In a second round of experimentation, subjects were forbidden to interact socially – without personal or virtual human contact – for ten hours. Later, they were shown pictures of people gathering and playing sports while the team scanned their brains. The scans revealed that the same part of their brain was animated in response to both food and social gatherings.
In both cases, the neurons in the middle brain and ventral tegmental area they lit up in response to images. The average brain is known as the ‘center of motivation’ and produces dopamine, a chemical associated with reward, Reverse reports.
The study suggests that social interaction is not only comforting or fun, but a human need. Loneliness is harmful
Participants also reported how they felt about this experience. After a day of fasting, they noticed that they felt irritable and had intense appetites. After the social isolation, they felt lonely and unhappy and wanted interactions with other people, Natalie Parletta told Cosmos magazine.
“This study provides empirical support for the idea that loneliness acts as a signal – like hunger – that signals to an individual that something is missing and that they need to take action to fix it,” Tomova told Inverse. As such, the study suggests that social interaction is not only comforting or fun, but a human need. Logically, when we are isolated, the human brain seeks to remedy feelings of loneliness.
Given the current state of the world, it is “important to pay attention to this social dimension of the current crisis,” says Tomova. The world is already facing an “epidemic of loneliness” as people report feeling more and more lonely, and the Covid-19 pandemic has made it worse.
“If in just one day of loneliness, our brain responds as if we were fasting all day, this suggests that our brain is very sensitive to the experience of being alone,” says Tomova. Previous research has shown that, when chosen intentionally, loneliness can have positive effects on well-being.
However, at present, people have few options as to whether or not to isolate themselves, and while some people may not be bothered so much by loneliness, others may suffer greatly from disconnection. social.