The medial prefrontal cortex gave lonely people

American scientists have found that the activity of the medial prefrontal cortex, which is involved in assessing themselves and other people differs depending on how close the relationship of man with others. The activity of its sites, according to an fMRI experiment involving 43 people, can be divided into three clusters, which are responsible for the rating itself, people within the social circle of the person, and unfamiliar — for example, celebrities. In addition, the work of the medial prefrontal cortex and its division are governed by how people feel subjectively alone: in particular, for this part of the brain more lonely people was not much of a difference meanwhile, what kind of people he needs to evaluate, write the scientists in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Loneliness, in contrast to social exclusion, which involves simply the lack of a number of other people, is subjective: it means some internal psychological state of dissatisfaction with existing social ties. Due to the conceptual difference between isolation and solitude past it is interesting to evaluate at the level of the brain: while activity, characteristic of interaction with other people is quite clear, of a subjective assessment of proximity to people at the time of communication not much is known.

In particular, the solution may lie in the work of the medial part of the prefrontal cortex — the area which is involved in the evaluation of one’s own mental States, and mental States of other people. In fact, her work should reflect the proximity of humans to other people: for example, for most people it likely will be higher, but if the person does not feel especially close even to good friends and family (which is largely triggered by loneliness), for this phase there will be no difference between them and strangers.

To test this experimentally decided Andrea Courtney (Andrea Courtney) from Stanford University and Megan Meyer (Meghan Meyer) from Dartmouth College. Their study involved 43 people, each of which provided the names of five loved ones (best friends, romantic partners, close relatives — those with whom they had established “the most intimate, trusting, and involved relationship”) and five not close friends (colleagues, classmates or neighbours). All participants completed a survey on the subject of how lonely they feel.

After that, all the participants underwent an fMRI scan during which they were shown plaques with the names of relatives, friends, themselves and famous people under each name was located some of the characteristics (e.g., “friendly”, “kind” or “polite”), and participants had to press one of four buttons corresponding to how, in their opinion, this feature suits a person. After the scan, participants completed surveys about how close they think of all the people whose names they saw, and how they like them (on a scale from 1 to 100).

Activity of the medial prefrontal cortex in all participants compared to all of the people whom the participants had to evaluate. Built according to the matrix of correlations of all investigated people were divided into three clusters for activation of area: in the first cluster consisted of the participant, the second of his family and friends, and one celebrity. In other words, in the medial prefrontal cortex in fact there is a division of people and objective proximity to them. In addition, a similar correlation between activity and group of people the researchers also found in other areas, among them, for example, preclini — part of the parietal lobe, which also takes part with the assessment of themselves and others.

In addition, the activity of the medial prefrontal cortex also linearly increased depending on how close people were evaluated by their proximity to another (p < 0.001). Those parts of the cortex responsible for evaluating yourself, also partially coincided with areas that were active during the evaluation of other people, and the closer was estimated the man, the more they coincide (p = 0,007).

Finally, the researchers examined how the activity of the medial prefrontal cortex in the evaluation of other people affects how lonely felt by the participants. More single people activity in the area was lower (p < 0.001), regardless of whom they were evaluated, and the activity relative to the individual clusters were more similar among themselves (p < 0.001). In addition, the single people were less observed areas of activation, the characteristic and for the assessment itself, and to assess other (p < 0.001).

The authors concluded that loneliness is associated with the representation of social relations and relations to other people in the medial prefrontal cortex. Despite the fact that single people could still appreciate his friends as those closest to the activity of their brain are not indicated on the special relationship: in other words, the medial prefrontal cortex of a lonely man was not particularly care who he appreciates a close friend, a colleague or even a celebrity (the person with whom he is unfamiliar). This, in turn, may be explained by the fact, as discussed, the site was evaluated the similarity of the person with another: for more single people similarities were smaller, which means that they seem less reflective on their relationships with others and how they like them.

People, apparently, in reality there may be a discrepancy of how close they consider others, and what proximity they maintain with others: the thing is, a couple of years ago found by scientists can be that loneliness makes people increase personal space, not allowing others close enough.

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