Why Do You Feel Lonely? Neuroscience Is Starting to Find Answers

Neuroscientists have long assumed that questions about how it might work in the human brain would elude their data-driven labs. How do you quantify the experience? And where would you even begin to look in the brain for the changes brought about by such a subjective feeling? Kay Tye hopes to change that by building an entirely new field: one aimed at analyzing and understanding how our sensory perceptions, previous experiences, genetic predispositions, and life situations combine with our environment to produce a concrete, measurable biological state called loneliness. And she wants to identify what that seemingly ineffable experience looks like when it is activated in the brain. If Tye succeeds, it could lead to new tools for identifying and monitoring those at risk from illnesses worsened by loneliness. It could also yield better ways to handle what could be a looming public health crisis triggered by COVID-19.


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