Mar 27, 2020

The need to connect: Acute social isolation causes neural craving responses similar to hunger.

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Livia TomovaR. Saxe


When people are forced to be isolated from one another, do they crave social interactions in the same way a hungry person craves food? To address this question, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure neural responses in participants (n=40) evoked by food and social cues after ten hours of mandated fasting or total social isolation. After isolation, people felt lonely and craved social interaction. Midbrain regions showed increased activation to food cues after fasting and to social cues after isolation; these responses were correlated with self-reported craving. Neural patterns in response to food cues when participants were hungry generalized to social cues after isolation. Our results support the intuitive idea that acute isolation causes social craving, similar to hunger.

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