A study published in 2012 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society identified a number of cortical areas associated with how many friends people had on Facebook. Lonely people have changes in different areas in the brain. In both groups, the changes were in the left half of the brain.
A new study published in 2014 in PLoS Biology used the same hypothesis in monkeys. They studied social status, identifying dominant versus subordinate animals. The dominant animal made choices that benefited both themselves and others as opposed to choices that would only reward the individual. Further, subordinate animals paid attention to social cues provided by animals of any social rank, whereas dominant animals only paid attention to cues provided by other dominant animals. The researchers were also able to identify grey matter regions that were larger in more dominant animals and different structures that were larger in subordinate animals.
Using nonhuman primates, various kinds of therapies can be tested, such as noninvasive brain stimulation or medications.
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