Numerous studies in the past highlight the impact of loneliness on health, with some studies suggesting that it can trigger some mental health risks and sometimes even cause deteriorating physical health. Studies have also shown that wisdom can counteract loneliness.
University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers embarked on a mission to understand the inverse relationship between wisdom and loneliness. They found that the brain has specific regions related to wisdom and loneliness that are affected by emotional stimuli in different ways. They conducted a study that evaluated emotional biases, and how they are affected by differences between positive and negative stimuli or emotions.
The researchers conducted a study that enrolled 147 subjects between 18 and 35 years old. The subjects were given simple cognitive tasks in which they were required to perform simple cognitive activities. For example, they were presented with an arrow and asked to determine the direction in which it was pointing to. The researchers also put faces making different emotions in the background.
“We found that when faces emoting anger were presented as distractors, they significantly slowed simple cognitive responses in lonelier individuals,” pointed out Dr. Jyoti Mishra, a senior author in the study.
Researchers observed differences in emotional processing based on different inputs
The researchers concluded that lonelier individuals respond more attentively to threatening stimuli. The opposite end of the spectrum presented a different observation. The scientists observed faster response speeds in subjects when they saw happy faces. Even more notable was the fact that study participants found to be wiser had even faster responses to happy faces stimuli.
Electroencephalogram (EEG) brain scans showed that the temporal-parietal junction (TPJ) region in the brain activated differently in wiser individuals compared to lonely individuals. TPJ processes important emotions such as empathy. This part of the brain appeared to be very active in wise people when they encountered happy emotions and similar levels of activation were observed when lonely people encountered angry emotions.
Dr. Mishra stated that the research findings were important because they provide objective neurological insights into how wiser and lonelier people handle information. The findings may prove useful in the development of treatments that offer higher levels of efficiency addressing various mental conditions.