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Social Isolation Triggers The Same Brain Signals As Hunger

•, By Chris Young

A new study from MIT finds that the yearning for human contact we feel during periods of social isolation share a neural basis with the food cravings we feel when hungry.

The neuroscientists behind the study found that after a single day of total isolation, the sight of a group of people having fun together activates the same brain region that lights up when someone who hasn't eaten for a day sees a picture of food.

Measuring the impact of social isolation

Over the years, studies into human behavior have shown that being deprived of social contact can lead to emotional distress, but the neurological basis for these feelings has not been thoroughly examined. 

"People who are forced to be isolated crave social interactions similarly to the way a hungry person craves food," Rebecca Saxe, the senior author of the study, explained in a press statement.

"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," she continued.

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