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Social distancing measures are essential for slowing COVID-19’s spread worldwide–preventing an upward Mondial pandemic. But, while necessary, one year and a half away from each other have taken a toll on people’s mental health. In numerous surveys, most adults in the world reported feeling “serious loneliness” during the pandemic. Statistics like these suggest people would be itching to hit the social scene but it’s not the case. For instance, nearly half of Americans reported feeling alone but uneasy about returning to in-person interaction regardless of vaccination status. So how can people be so lonely yet so nervous about refilling their social calendars?
Neuroscientists like Kareem Clark postdoctoral associate in neuroscience at Virginia Tech may have insight into how social isolation and resocialization affect the brain. “In a national survey last fall, 36% of adults in the U.S.—including 61% of young adults—reported feeling “serious loneliness” during the pandemic. Statistics like these suggest people would be itching to hit the social scene. But if the idea of making small talk at a crowded happy hour sounds terrifying to you, you’re not alone. Nearly half of Americans reported feeling uneasy about returning to in-person interaction regardless of vaccination status. Well, the brain is remarkably adaptable. And while we can’t know exactly what our brains have gone through over the last year, neuroscientists like Kareem Clark have some insight into how social isolation and resocialization affect the brain.
SOCIAL HOMEOSTASIS—THE NEED TO SOCIALIZE
Humans have an evolutionarily hardwired need to socialize—though it may not feel like it when deciding between a dinner invite and rewatching Schitt’s Creek. From insects to primates, maintaining social networks is critical for survival in the animal kingdom. Social groups provide mating prospects, cooperative hunting, and protection from predators. But social homeostasis—the right balance of social connections—must be met. Small social networks can’t deliver those benefits, while large ones increase competition for resources and mates. Because of this, human brains developed specialized circuitry to gauge our relationships and make the correct adjustments—much like a social thermostat.
Social homeostasis involves many brain regions, and at the center is the mesocorticolimbic circuit—or “reward system.” That same circuit motivates you to eat chocolate when you crave something sweet or swipe on Tinder when you crave . . . well, you get it… Continious reading the article on The Conversation magazine
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