Since the pandemic, everyone is trying to cope with loneliness in their own way. Researchers too, have started to study the impact of loneliness on a human being’s brain, the results are quite interesting. In the brain, there is a part known as default network, which is mainly concerned with future planning, imagination, thinking about others and reminiscing. Loneliness has seemed too alter that particular part only.
The MRI scans of lonely people showed strong wiring of the default network and and high grey matter volume in that region. The reason for this is because lonely people tend to use their imagination and memories to help them overcome social situations. Hence more you imagine, more your default network grows.
“Lonely people tend to imagine the social world to a greater degree, as well as imagine and reminisce about social experiences more”. “So, we think that in the absence of social stimulation in the world, the brain is compensating by upregulating these functions of the default network,” says Nathan Spreng, the study’s lead author, from The Neuro (the Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital of McGill University).
The fornix, that is a bundle of nerves which carries signals from the hippocampus to default network, also held higher integrity. In lonely people, the structure of this bundle of nerves (fornix) was intact and well preserved. “We do not have direct causal evidence of these changes, but this study does provide suggestive evidence to this effect,” he adds.