An American study published in the journal Psychological Science indicates that people who suffer from loneliness do not see the world in the same way as those who do not feel lonely.
When it comes to processing information, she said, non-lonely people are all the same, but each single person processes the world in their own way.
How was the research conducted?
The University of California research conducted neuroimaging tests on 66 young men in their first year of college between the ages of 18 and 21. Students were also asked to complete the UCLA Loneliness Scale, a self-report measure of their feelings of loneliness and social isolation. .
Based on the results, young people were divided into two groups – lonely and “non-lonely” (people who do not suffer from loneliness). Next, the students were forced to watch 14 videos while the researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to view brain activity.
The content was said to be engaging enough so that the participants’ minds wandering during the task did not affect the data collected. The subject matter of the videos ranged from emotional music videos to festive scenes and sporting events, providing a range of scenarios for analysis.
Psychologist Elisa Pike, assistant professor at the University of Southern California, and her team analyzed 214 different regions of the brain and how they responded over time to stimuli in the videos.
They also compared the activity between the individuals in each brain region to understand how similar or different their responses were.
What did the study find?
The researchers found significant differences in the way the brains of loners functioned and processed information when compared to their non-isolated peers. In addition, the researchers not only detected differences between the two groups, but also found significant differences between isolated individuals.
The researchers tested whether there were correlations between loneliness and neural responses to normal stimuli and whether they followed what the paper referred to as the “Anna Karenina principle.” It was inspired by the opening line of the Russian writer and philosopher Leo Tolstoy’s novel, I am Karenina “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
“It was surprising to find that lonely people were less similar to each other,” Pike said in a statement. She added, “The Anna Karenina principle” is an apt description for people who feel lonely, because they experience loneliness in a special way, not in a way that can be universally predicted. ”
The study found that while unusual people were more or less the same, neurologically speaking, individuals with high levels of loneliness regardless of how many friends they had were more likely to have unique brain responses.
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