June 26, 2022
Isolamento social

Social isolation can change the structure of the human brain

As human beings, we are also social beings who need, as we shall see, interactions. According to a new study, social isolation alters the structure of our brains and limits their capabilities.

After the pandemic that forced the suspension of social interactions, it is important to understand the impact of this phenomenon on one of the most important organs of the human body.


According to Science Alert, humans are generally excited when they are in large groups. As mentioned, social mind theory argues that the human brain evolves in order to maintain and prefer social interactions. In fact, there are studies that conclude that belonging to a group can lead to increased individual satisfaction with life, as well as improved well-being.

Despite the advantages that come with social interaction, there are people who live permanently isolated and lack this aspect of brain development. According to a new study that mapped the brains of 7,000 people, this withdrawal is linked to changes in brain structure and cognition, and that it carries an increased risk of dementia in older adults.

Does social isolation affect the brain?

The study was published in Neurology showed that areas of the brain that are systematically involved in social interactions are linked to networks that support cognition. Among them is the virtual network, which activates when we focus on the outside world; The mesh of the bumps, which helps us choose what we will pay attention to; The subcortical network, which is associated with memory, emotion, and motivation; and the central executive network that allows us to regulate emotions.

In order to understand whether social isolation affects the brain, the team investigated data from nearly 500,000 people, with an average age of 57 years. For this purpose, subjects were classified as socially isolated if they lived alone, had less than a month of social contact, and participated in social activities less than weekly.

brain

The study, which also included neuroimaging data from 32,000 people, showed that individuals who were considered socially isolated had impaired cognition, poorer memory, longer reaction time and lower gray matter volume in many parts of the brain. These segments included the time zone, which processes sounds and helps encode memories; The frontal lobe involved the extent of interest planning and carrying out complex cognitive tasks; The hippocampus, which is a key area associated with learning and memory, is usually affected early in Alzheimer's disease.

Study subjects were followed up, and after 12 years, it was concluded that those who were socially isolated but not alone had a 26% higher risk of developing dementia.

As Science Alert concluded, although more and more in-depth studies are needed on the effect of social isolation on the human brain, it is clear that it can cause chronic stress and induce cognitive loss, such as language use, attention, and memory — since the brain is not stimulated by discussions. and discussions related to social interaction.

It is in this inherent human need that technology can make a difference, albeit more so in younger generations. As we've seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, once forced into the house, people called and found ways to interact with friends and family, even from a distance.

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