According to McMaster University, loneliness is a lot different from what we call social-isolation. Lack of acquaintance is isolation but how we perceive that situation decides whether we are lonely or not. People can be surrounded by family and friends but still find themselves completely alone.
However, either way, it does change our brain chemistry as humans are social mammals. We cannot stand isolation for too long as eventually, it turns out into complete loneliness.
As per reports, loneliness is the new epidemic of the modern world with serious consequences. Also, it does not only contribute to depression and anxiety but to physical ailments as well.
Impact of loneliness on the human brain and body
The production of the stress hormone, cortisol, heightens in a lonely person’s body, which can lead to overall inflammation. Furthermore, regardless of our heart health, social isolation can increase the risk of a heart attack and even early death.
What do studies say?
According to a study, when mice remain in isolation for about 2 weeks, their brain produces a fear protein known as tachykinin2/neurokinin B peptide or Tac2/NkB in large amounts. Well, Professor David Anderson of the California Institute of Technology in research along with his team, stated,
“We discovered that Tac2/NkB is up regulated broadly throughout the mouse brain in multiple brain regions that are involved in different types of emotional coping behaviours and aggression.” said Anderson.
He further added,
“We think Tac2/NkB is a chemical modulator that coordinates a whole inter-brain state that is caused by social isolation; one that operates in a distributed manner in the brain.”
In contrast, the researchers artificially overproduced and released Tac2/NkB from the brains of mice in group housing conditions. Moreover, this led the mice to mimic many of the effects of social isolation.
A drug namely osanetant, that blocks NkB receptor, can block the behavioral effects of social isolation on the mice, as discovered by the research.
After injecting with this drug, the isolated mice return to collective accommodation safely, which could otherwise be fatal. They developed Osanetant as a therapy for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. However, it failed to show any efficacy for them.
“Our study raises the possibility that this drug might be repurposed to treat other psychiatric disorders that are related to effects of social isolation in humans- not just in solitary confinement but perhaps in bereavement stress or other types of stress.” said Anderson.
In the future, this drug might be really beneficial for mankind. However, wouldn’t it be better if we could eradicate the cause i.e loneliness itself?