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"One is the loneliest number …"
Hey everyone, Crystal here for DNews. I don't care how much Netflix and ice cream you consume,
being alone for long periods of time just SUCKS. It makes us sad, eats away at our self-esteem
and our immune system, makes us more susceptible to chronic diseases and it might even shorten our lifespan.
But could loneliness actually be a good thing?
Loneliness is the emotional state that arises from perceived isolation. Like Hunger, Thirst,
and Pain, Loneliness is an "aversive cue": a negative feeling that we want to move away from.
Think of it as an evolutionary mechanism that says "Hey, you're in danger and friends could help you."
Humans evolved to be social animals: groups provide protection and shared resources
that help us survive. When it comes to gathering food, building shelters, and
defending themselves, communities of humans have a much better chance of survival than individuals do.
And so scientists say, we evolved a "need to belong".
In fact, loneliness may have been so important for survival that we evolved a unique set of neurons
in our brains dedicated to it!
In a paper recently published in the journal Cell,
neuroscientists at MIT identified a region of the mouse brain that is uniquely responsive to isolation.
The researchers used a technique called optogenetics,
in which light is used to activate or inhibit selected groups of neurons in a modified rodent brain,
to manipulate a cluster of Dopamine-sensitive neurons in the Dorsal Raphe Nucleus,
(which is a region of the mouse's brain that's been associated with depression).
For now we'll call this special set of cells "loneliness neurons".
In the study, researchers introduced a lonely experimental mouse to a new mouse friend,
and observed a significant increase in activity of the "loneliness neurons".
Then they gave the mouse a choice between spending time alone or with another mouse and
studied how optogenetics stimulation of the "loneliness neurons" influenced the mouse's choice.
Activation of the neurons caused the mouse to spend significantly more time with a mousy
companion, indicating that when those neurons fire, mice seek out social interaction.
But was the mouse's choice motivated by positive reward or a negative experience?
To determine this, scientists let mice roam around in a box that contained two areas.
When the mouse spent time in one area, its "loneliness neurons" were stimulated,
while in the other area, they were not. Interestingly, the mice avoided the stimulating area indicating
that the activation didn't make them feel very good. This observation lead researchers
to suggest that activity in this brain region may be connected to a loneliness-like state
that motivates mice to seek out social contact to feel better. These finding reinforces the
evolutionary view that loneliness is actually a good thing, because it encourages us to
seek social contact and in turn keeps us healthier and safer.
Even in just this study there is so much more to the story, and if the research is extrapolated
to humans it could not only help to explain motivations behind our own feelings and behavior
but also help us study what happens when those things go awry.
But before we all get too excited the neuroscientist in me must extend a note of caution:
it's important to remember that human brains and mouse brains are similar in some ways,
but not the same and mice do not display identical social behaviors to humans. But for now,
since we can't manipulate human brains the way we do with mice, we have to make do with what
we learn from rodents... and hope that somebody gave those lonely mice a hug and some tiny
ice cream and told them that they're terrific and it's all going to be okay…
And somebody will love you for who you are, and you'll never be lonely again…sorry
Well, if I haven't managed to convince you to stop staring at this screen and seek social contact,
check out this video by Laci on how loneliness can kill you:
What about you? How do you deal with loneliness? Subscribe to DNews and let us know in the
comments down below. See you next time!
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Why Being Lonely Is Crucial For Survival

58059 Phân loại Sưu tầm
Vivi Lee đăng vào ngày 20/6/2017

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