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The Science of Loneliness

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Are some of us hard-wired to feel chronic loneliness? Recent neuroscience research suggests that loneliness is associated with brain-processing patterns that can alter cognitive and social-emotional experiences — the ways in which we understand the world — and affirm our perception of being different or not fitting in with our peers.

This belief impairs our ability to sustain social bonds.“Social interactions rely on a complex orchestration of brain functions, from understanding another person’s point of view, recognizing their emotional state, feeling their emotional pain, and so on.

Difficulties with any of these can affect our ability to connect to others,” says Ellen Lee, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego. “The emotional pain and stress of loneliness can also take a toll on our brains.”Lee was the corresponding author of a systemic review of 41 studies, involving 16,771 adult participants, examining the neurobiology of loneliness.

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