Study: Loneliness Shrinks The Brain

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Study: Loneliness Shrinks The Brain
Study: Loneliness Shrinks The Brain

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Study: loneliness shrinks the brain

Social isolation and monotony of life can possibly lead to a decrease in the size of certain parts of the brain. This assumption was made by scientists who examined polar explorers who returned from a long expedition. They do not rule out that such changes may affect the ability to process emotions and interact with other people.

Study: loneliness shrinks the brain
Study: loneliness shrinks the brain

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Social isolation and monotony of life can possibly lead to a decrease in the size of certain parts of the brain. This assumption was made by scientists who examined polar explorers who returned from a long expedition. They published their work in the New England Journal of Medicine, reviewed by Live Science.

Scientists performed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of the brains of eight of the nine members of the fourteen-month Antarctic expedition twice: before and after. They found that certain structures of the polar explorers' brain decreased in volume during this time. In particular, the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is responsible for some types of memory and plays a role in learning, has become noticeably smaller.

The authors of the study suggest that the reason for this was the conditions in which the participants of the expedition found themselves: working at an isolated research station for many months and contacting only a few of the same people. They believe that the brain has received insufficient amounts of certain types of stimulation.

Alexander Stahn of the Charité-University of Medicine in Berlin, co-author of the study, told Live Science that such changes could potentially reduce the expedition's ability to process emotions and interact with other people, because the hippocampus is extremely important for these processes.

In the introduction to their article, the authors write that environmental monotony and social isolation have had deleterious effects on the brain in animal experiments. In particular, under the influence of these factors, the ability to generate new neurons in male rats decreased.

Scientists emphasize that their data should be interpreted with caution, because the study was small and does not allow to state exactly which factors influenced such results.

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