Poster C11, Sunday, March 25, 1:00-3:00 pm, Exhibit Hall C
Neural Correlates of Loneliness in Adolescence
Janelle Beadle1, Mallory Feenstra1, Abi M. Heller1, Vince D. Calhoun2,5, Julia Stephen2,5, Yu-Ping Wang3, David E. Warren4, Tony W. Wilson4; 1University of Nebraska at Omaha, 2University of New Mexico, 3Tulane University, 4University of Nebraska Medical Center, 5The Mind Research Network
Loneliness is a significant concern in adolescence because it is a risk factor for depression and suicide. However, the brain networks associated with loneliness in adolescence are not yet known. In this study, we investigated the brain networks associated with loneliness in 85 healthy youths and adolescents aged 9-14 years old. We hypothesized that a key region of the default network, the posterior cingulate, would show increased connectivity to regions associated with the experience of loneliness. All 85 participants underwent resting-state fMRI, high-resolution T1-weighted structural MRI, and completed the NIH Toolbox, including measures of loneliness, rejection, and friendship. Using resting-state functional connectivity analyses (rs-FC), we examined whole brain connectivity to the posterior cingulate seed as a function of loneliness. Correlations between regional brain volumes and social measures were also examined. Our results indicated that greater loneliness was associated with lower rs-FC between the posterior cingulate seed, and the bilateral superior parietal cortex. Furthermore, there was reduced rs-FC between the posterior cingulate and the middle temporal gyrus as a function of age and loneliness. Previous research has implicated the superior parietal cortex and middle temporal cortex as playing a role in mentalizing. Our findings are consistent with an account that lonely adolescents’ may be less focused on others’ intentions, but additional work will be necessary to validate this interpretation.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Development & aging