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Social Isolation

John Cacioppo, PhD, Tiffany & Mar­garet Blake Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Professor; Director, Cen­ter for Cog­ni­tive and Social Neuroscience, The Uni­ver­sity of Chicago   Web­site  |  Pub­li­ca­tions  |   @J_Cacioppo

Abstract: Social species, by def­i­n­i­tion, form orga­ni­za­tions that extend beyond the indi­vid­ual. These struc­tures evolved hand in hand with behav­ioral, neural, hor­monal, cel­lu­lar, and genetic mech­a­nisms to sup­port them because the con­se­quent social behav­iors helped these organ­isms sur­vive, repro­duce, and care for off­spring suf­fi­ciently long thatthey too repro­duced. Social iso­la­tion rep­re­sents a lens through which to inves­ti­gate these behav­ioral, neural, hor­monal, cel­lu­lar, and genetic mech­a­nisms. Evi­dence from human and non­hu­man ani­mal stud­ies indi­cates that iso­la­tion height­ens sen­si­tiv­ity to social threats (preda­tor eva­sion) and moti­vates the renewal of social con­nec­tions. The effects of per­ceived iso­la­tion in humans share much in com­mon with the effects of exper­i­men­tal manip­u­la­tions of iso­la­tion in non­hu­man social species: increased tonic sym­pa­thetic tonus and HPA acti­va­tion, and decreased inflam­ma­tory con­trol, immu­nity, sleep salubrity, and expres­sion of genes reg­u­lat­ing glu­co­cor­ti­coid responses. Together, these effects con­tribute to higher rates of mor­bid­ity and mor­tal­ity in older adults.

Bio: John T. Cacioppo, PhD, is the Tiffany and Mar­garet Blake Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Pro­fes­sor and Direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Cog­ni­tive and Social Neu­ro­science at the Uni­ver­sity of Chicago. He also is the PI of the Chicago Health, Aging, and Social Rela­tions Study (CHASRS), a population-based, lon­gi­tu­di­nal study he began in 2001 to deter­mine the causes and con­se­quences of lone­li­ness across the adult lifes­pan. He is the author of more than 400 sci­en­tific arti­cles and 20 books. Cacioppo cur­rently is the Pres­i­dent of the Inter­na­tional Soci­ety for Social Neu­ro­science; the Past-Chair of the Psy­chol­ogy Sec­tion of the Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion for the Advance­ment of Sci­ence; the Chair of the Board of Behav­ioral, Cog­ni­tive, and Sen­sory Sci­ences at the US National Research Coun­cil; a mem­ber of the Coun­cil for the National Insti­tutes of Health Cen­ter for Sci­en­tific Review; and a mem­ber of the National Sci­ence Foundation’s Advi­sory Com­mit­tee for the Social, Behav­ioral, and Eco­nomic Sci­ences Divi­sion. Among the awards he has received are the Troland Award from the National Acad­emy of Sci­ences, the Dis­tin­guished Sci­en­tific Con­tri­bu­tion Award from the Amer­i­can Psy­chol­ogy, a MERIT Award from the National Insti­tute on Aging/National Insti­tutes of Health, the Sci­en­tific Impact Award from the Soci­ety for Exper­i­men­tal Social Psy­chol­ogy, the The­o­ret­i­cal Inno­va­tion Prize from the Soci­ety for Per­son­al­ity and Social Psy­chol­ogy, and Hon­orary Doc­tor of Sci­ence degrees from Bard Col­lege and from the Uni­ver­sity of Birmingham.