Monday, February 16, 2009

Loneliness as Harmful as Smoking - Loneliness Affects Brain

[16 February 2009 - Psych Central News] A new study finds that social isolation affects not only how people behave, but also how their brains operate. University of Chicago scientists presented their research, "Social Emotion and the Brain," at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The work is the first to use fMRI scans to study the connections between perceived social isolation (or loneliness) and activity in the brain. Combining fMRI scans with data relevant to social behavior is part of an emerging field examining brain mechanisms. Researchers found that the ventral striatum -- a region of the brain associated with rewards -- is much more activated in non-lonely people than in the lonely when they view pictures of people in pleasant settings. In contrast, the temporoparietal junction -- a region associated with taking the perspective of another person -- is much less activated among lonely than in the non-lonely when viewing pictures of people in unpleasant settings. ... John Cacioppo, one of the nation's leading scholars on loneliness, has shown that loneliness undermines health and can be as detrimental as smoking. About one in five Americans experience loneliness, he said. Decety is one of the nation's leading researchers to use fMRI scans to explore empathy. More

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