Why Hunger and Loneliness Activate the Same Part of the Brain

Rasha Aridi in Smithsonian:

The Covid-19 pandemic has made the world feel lonelier than ever as people have been shut away in their homes, aching to gather with their loved ones again. This instinct to evade loneliness is deeply engrained in our brains, and a new study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience suggests that our longing for social interaction elicits a similar neurological response to a hungry person craving food, reports Ali Pattillo for Inverse. Livia Tomova, a cognitive neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and her collaborators conducted a study in which they had a test group of 40 people fast for ten hours. At the end of the day, the hungry subjects were shown images of pizza and chocolate cake while receiving a brain scan, reports Bethany Brookshire for Science News.

In a second round of experimentation, the subjects were barred from social interaction—no in person or virtual human contact—for ten hours. Afterward, they were shown images of people gathering and playing sports as the team scanned their brains. The scans revealed that the same part of their brains perked up in response to both food and social gatherings, reports Science News.

…”[This study] provides empirical support for the idea that loneliness acts as a signal—just like hunger—that signals to an individual that something is lacking and that it needs to take action to repair that,” Tomova tells Inverse.

More here.