Know the thoughts that occupy the brains of those dealing with loneliness
During this year where people around the world had to lead a less carefree life due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to know and deal with all situations, including mental struggles. A new study revealed that the brains of people who experience loneliness have their unique neural signature.
After an analysis of 38,701 middle-aged and older volunteers who took part in the UK Biobank health database project, the study started. They combined the data from MRI scans with self-assessments on feelings of loneliness, after which the researchers were able to discover many differences in the brains of the ones that feel lonely and the ones that do not.
These differences are noted around the default network in the brain, and were regions relating to mental exercises such as reminiscing, future planning, thinking about others, and creating scenarios.
Neurologist Nathan Spreng from McGill University in Canada says that due to the a sense of desired social experiences, lonely people can seek thoughts created internally and start reminiscing or creating social experiences. Keep in mind that these are the experiences that individuals feels when they are socially isolated, and not when they are spending time alone (it’s common for people to have a large number of friends but still feel lonely).
The brains of those who often felt lonely was more strongly wired together with more grey matter, suggesting that there is more activity or capacity in those regions.
Before the pandemic, this was a serious issue and was linked to numerous health issues such as raised blood pressure, Alzheimer’s and premature death. Simply put, we are not built to survive isolation.