May 19, 2024

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New Research Links Social Isolation to Reduced Brain Volume

New Research Links Social Isolation to Reduced Brain Volume


New Research Links Social Isolation to Reduced Brain Volume.

According to a recent study published in the American Neurological Association’s medical journal, “Neurology,” older individuals with limited social interactions may be at a higher risk of overall brain volume reduction, particularly in areas often affected by dementia, compared to their peers who engage in regular social activities.


New Research Links Social Isolation to Reduced Brain Volume


However, it’s important to note that this study only establishes a correlation between social isolation and reduced brain volume; it does not prove that social isolation directly causes brain atrophy.

Dr. Toshiharu Ninomiya, the lead author of the research report and a medical doctor from Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan, stated, “Social isolation is an increasingly serious issue for older adults. These findings suggest that providing support to help individuals initiate and maintain connections with others may be beneficial in preventing brain atrophy and the onset of dementia.”

The study involved 8,896 non-dementia patients with an average age of 73. They underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans and health assessments. To determine their social contact status, participants were asked one question: “How often do you have contact with relatives or friends who do not live with you (e.g., in-person meetings or phone calls)? The available answers included: every day, several times a week, several times a month, and rarely.

Individuals with the least social contact exhibited significantly lower overall brain volume compared to those with the most social contact. The total brain volume (comprising white and gray matter) as a percentage of the intracranial volume (the volume inside the skull, including the brain, meninges, and cerebrospinal fluid) was 67.3% for the least contact group and 67.8% for the most contact group. Additionally, regions in their brains such as the hippocampus and amygdala, which play crucial roles in memory and are affected by dementia, were smaller in volume.

The researchers took into account other factors that could influence brain volume, such as age, diabetes, smoking, and physical activity.

Individuals with limited social interactions also exhibited more small-scale brain damage (referred to as white matter lesions) compared to those with frequent social contact. The white matter lesion volume as a proportion of intracranial volume was 0.30 for socially isolated individuals, whereas it was 0.26 for those with the closest social connections.

The researchers found that depressive symptoms could partially explain the relationship between social isolation and reduced brain volume. However, depressive symptoms accounted for only 15% to 29% of this relationship.

Ninomiya commented, “While this study provides a snapshot in time and cannot definitively conclude that social isolation causes brain atrophy, some research suggests that encouraging social engagement among older adults can prevent or even reverse declines in brain volume and improve cognitive function and memory.”

It’s important to note that this study only involved elderly individuals in Japan, so the results may not be directly applicable to other ethnic groups and younger populations.


New Research Links Social Isolation to Reduced Brain Volume

(source:internet, reference only)

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Important Note: The information provided is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice.