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What does social isolation do in youth?
Social isolation during adolescence leads to changes in the activity patterns of the neurons, which in turn contributes to long-term disorders in social behavior and appears to favor schizophrenia.
The current study by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found that social isolation during adolescence leads to long-term disturbances in social behavior and disturbances in the activity patterns of a type of inhibitory neuron in the brain. The results of the study were published in the English language journal "Nature Communications".
Loneliness and its effects on mental health
Loneliness is now increasingly seen as a serious threat to mental health and well-being in our society. The current study shows that social isolation during adolescence leads to long-term disturbances in social behavior and disturbances in the activity patterns of a type of inhibitory neuron in the brain, which are often disturbed in psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia.
Activity of neurons increases through active interaction
Social behavior in mice is composed of interactions in which mice actively examine their peers or passively examine them themselves. The researchers found a population of neurons whose activity increases before active but not passive social interaction.
Promote active social behavior
A short activity of these neurons is enough to promote an increased active social behavior. However, social isolation during adolescence interferes with the activity of these neurons, which leads to a decoupling of their activity from active social behavior. An increasing activity of these neurons in adult animals that were socially isolated during adolescence can nevertheless restore normal social behavior, the researchers report.
Experiences during adolescence change behavior in the long term
The results of the study help us to understand how social experience during the most important development windows can influence long-term behavior patterns by changing certain circuits in the brain, the research team summarizes.
Improved treatment of psychiatric disorders with social deficits?
The new findings could help to overcome social deficits in cases of trauma in early life or in neural development disorders and psychiatric disorders with social deficits, the researchers report.
How did the experiment work?
The study measured the activity of special neurons during social interaction and the input drive to these neurons. This was done in model experiments on mice, which were denied social experience during adolescence. The mice were examined in their adolescent phase without social experience and in their behavior and physiology in adulthood.
Result of the investigation
The study concludes that social experience at an early age changes specific patterns of so-called parvalbumin-expressing inhibitory neurons in the prefrontal cortex. These activity patterns are essential for the active social approach behavior of mice. (as)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Lucy K. Bicks, Kazuhiko Yamamuro, Meghan E. Flanigan, Julia Minjung Kim, Daisuke Kato et al .: Prefrontal parvalbumin internurons require juvenile social experience to establish adult social behavior, in Nature Communications (published 02/21/2020), Nature Communications