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Extreme isolation warps the mind

posted May 15, 2014, 10:21 AM by Infotheque Intl   [ updated Jan 27, 2016, 4:33 PM by Thomas Kraus ]
Solitude can play disturbing tricks on the mind,
Interesting report on how extreme isolation warps the mind. When people are isolated from human contact, their mind can do some truly bizarre things, says Michael Bond, the author of "The Power of Others". Why does this happen? We all want to be alone from time to time, to escape the demands of our colleagues or the hassle of crowds. But not alone alone. For most people, prolonged social isolation is all bad, particularly mentally.
We’ve known for a while that isolation is physically bad for us. Chronically lonely people have higher blood pressure, are more vulnerable to infection, and are also more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Loneliness also interferes with a whole range of everyday functioning, such as sleep patterns, attention and logical and verbal reasoning. The mechanisms behind these effects are still unclear, though what is known is that social isolation unleashes an extreme immune response – a cascade of stress hormones and inflammation.
Why does the perceptually deprived brain play such tricks? Cognitive psychologists believe that the part of the brain that deals with ongoing tasks, such as sensory perception, is accustomed to dealing with a large quantity of information, such as visual, auditory and other environmental cues. But when there is a dearth of information, says Robbins, “the various nerve systems feeding in to the brain’s central processor are still firing off, but in a way that doesn’t make sense. So after a while the brain starts to make sense of them, to make them into a pattern.” It creates whole images out of partial ones. In other words, it tries to construct a reality from the scant signals available to it, yet it ends up building a fantasy world.
This article is based on the book The Power of Others by Michael Bond and you can find the full story here on BBC

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