The Effects of Loneliness on Brain Cognition and Well-being Uncovered by Studies

Trust is eroded by long-term loneliness, fueling confrontation, pessimism, and self-protective tendencies. (Photo via

Empirical research has substantiated that an extended period of solitude results in the emergence of melancholic emotions and significantly impacts cognitive processes, emotional states, perception, and both physical and mental health.

Taipei, Taiwan (WS News Publisher) – Is it a regular occurrence for you to be by yourself? Studies have confirmed that when the time of loneliness is prolonged or the situation is severe, it will not only make people feel sad but also affect the brain’s response. Keeping the brain alert is implicated in our thinking, emotions, perception, and health.

Human beings are social animals. Living together can not only ensure the safety of survival but also a natural sense of community. So we develop into communities, groups, or societies. Therefore, from the perspective of psychology and neuroscience, when someone is with us, we will feel a sense of security and solidity, otherwise, we will feel flustered and uneasy.

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines loneliness as the emotional distress we experience when our needs for intimacy and companionship are not being met. Often accompanied by feelings of restlessness and a feeling of being in a bad mood. When we maintain a normal frequency of social life, it stimulates the brain and keeps it youthful. At the same time, it will also activate the reward mechanism of the brain, stimulate the secretion of dopamine, and keep us in a happy mood. On the contrary, it will affect the memory and learning ability of the brain, and even the spatial processing ability.

A study published in “The New England Journal of Medicine” pointed out that for workers who lived alone in Antarctica for 14 months, the dentate gyrus in the hippocampus would shrink by 7%, which would affect the memory and learning ability of the hippocampus. Research published in “The Journals of Gerontology” also found that people with high social isolation experience a gradual decline in cognitive function in memory.

Dr. Livia Tomova, a neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge in the UK, found that when people are lonely, the brain will show similar neural characteristics to those when they are hungry. Areas of the brain associated with feelings of stress also light up, leading to a greater desire for a partnered life. So they may fall into an inappropriate relationship and cannot leave, or show the emotion of worrying about gains and losses in the relationship and make the companion retreat.

According to the fMRI data in related studies, the brain activity of long-term lonely people related to the generation of trust is less active. Therefore, when they shared money in the research, they are less willing to open their hearts and share with others, and they gave less to other participants. Even if it has been stated in advance, the monetary value of the shared cash will be tripled, and those who receive the money may return part of the cash one after another.

In the case of not trusting others, chronically lonely people are more likely to have antagonism, pessimism, and self-protection awareness. When unfavorable events happen, they will mistakenly believe that others are embarrassing themselves, become emotionally vulnerable and easily hurt, and even choose to reject the other party to protect themselves. Therefore, they are often in a state of high alertness, easily cynical but also low in negativity, and fall into a vicious circle of bad emotions and bad social relationships.

We all have moments of some alone time in our lives where we can get back to ourselves, think quietly, or examine our lives. If you feel too lonely recently, closed-minded, or even indifferent and hostile to the people and things around you, maybe it’s time to get out of the house, go to nature to breathe fresh air, and open your heart. Find a family or friend to have a cup of coffee and enjoy the afternoon time, talk about your current situation, and care for others, maybe you can get rid of loneliness and restore an optimistic mood.

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