The researchers found that after one day of total isolation, the sight of people having fun together activates the same brain region that lights up when someone who hasn’t eaten all day sees a picture of a plate of cheesy pasta.
“People who are forced to be isolated crave social interactions similarly to the way a hungry person craves food. Our finding fits the intuitive idea that positive social interactions are a basic human need, and acute loneliness is an aversive state that motivates people to repair what is lacking, similar to hunger,” says Rebecca Saxe, the John W. Jarve Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, a member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and the senior author of the study.
The research team collected the data for this study in 2018 and 2019, long before the coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdowns. Their new findings, described today in Nature Neuroscience, are part of a larger research program focusing on how social stress affects people’s behavior and motivation.Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “A hunger for social contact: Neuroscientists find that isolation provokes brain activity similar to that seen during hunger cravings.” ScienceDaily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201123120724.htm (accessed November 23, 2020).