The neuroscience of unmet social needs

TitleThe neuroscience of unmet social needs
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsTomova, L., Tye K., & Saxe R.
JournalSocial Neuroscience
Pagination1 - 11
Date Published11/2019

John Cacioppo has compared loneliness to hunger or thirst in that it signals that one needs to act and repair what is lacking. This paper reviews Cacioppo’s and others’ contributions to our understanding of neural mechanisms underlying social motivation in humans and in other social species. We focus particularly on the dopaminergic reward system and try to integrate evidence from animal models and human research. In rodents, objective social isolation leads to increased social motivation, mediated by the brains’ mesolimbic dopamine system. In humans, social rejection can lead to either increased or decreased social motivation, and is associated with activity in the insular cortex; while chronic loneliness is typically associated with decreased social motivation but has been associated with altered dopaminergic responses in the striatum. This mixed pattern of cross-species similarities and differences may arise from the substantially different methods used to study unmet social needs across species, and suggests the need for more direct and deliberate cross-species comparative research in this critically important domain.

Short TitleSocial Neuroscience