After providing all the funding for The Brain from Top to Bottom for over 10 years, the CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction informed us that because of budget cuts, they were going to be forced to stop sponsoring us as of March 31st, 2013.

We have approached a number of organizations, all of which have recognized the value of our work. But we have not managed to find the funding we need. We must therefore ask our readers for donations so that we can continue updating and adding new content to The Brain from Top to Bottom web site and blog.

Please, rest assured that we are doing our utmost to continue our mission of providing the general public with the best possible information about the brain and neuroscience in the original spirit of the Internet: the desire to share information free of charge and with no adverstising.

Whether your support is moral, financial, or both, thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Bruno Dubuc, Patrick Robert, Denis Paquet, and Al Daigen

Thursday, 27 July 2017
The Damage Done by Social Isolation

John Cacioppo is a pioneer in the field of social neuroscience. He observes that people who are socially isolated were long thought to be suffering from some form of mental illness. But research done on this subject by Cacioppo and a number of other scientists over the past 10 to 20 years shows that social isolation is very much caused and/or aggravated by environmental factors in the broad sense, ranging from political decisions to economic ideologies. Not the least of these factors is the emphasis that our capitalist societies place on productivity. People who cannot find their place in this highly hierarchical, competitive system are too often regarded as “losers” whom an increasingly frayed social-safety network can no longer support adequately.

In brain-imaging studies, Cacioppo and his colleagues have shown that socially isolated individuals have less activity in the brain networks associated with theory of mind (the ability to put oneself in someone else’s shoes so as to better understand them). Because they misunderstand or even fear other people, such individuals very often display hypervigilance and defensive reactions. They are thus subject to chronic stress, which as we know, can have disastrous consequences for physical and mental health.

What Cacioppo is basically telling us (for example, in his excellent TED talk) is that we must understand our fundamentally social nature so that we can pick up the alarm signals of social isolation in ourselves or people close to us and take these signals just as seriously as intense hunger or physical pain. We can then look for activities that may help us to develop more social ties, such as joining a sports team or community group, or doing volunteer work, or getting involved in community gardening.

But just as important, and maybe even more so, we must fight back against those media messages, political decisions and economic ideologies that far too often are veritable machines for socially isolating some people while producing staggering profits for others. At the same time, we must strive to foster what Cacioppo and others call social resilience.

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