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1.  Social isolation 
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 that they 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.
PMCID: PMC3166409  PMID: 21651565
social isolation; social neuroscience; loneliness; gene expression; health
2.  Challenges and opportunities in social neuroscience 
Social species are so characterized because they form organizations that extend beyond the individual. The goal of social neuroscience is to investigate the biological mechanisms that underlie these social structures, processes, and behavior and the influences between social and neural structures and processes. Such an endeavor is challenging because it necessitates the integration of multiple levels. Mapping across systems and levels (from genome to social groups and cultures) requires interdisciplinary expertise, comparative studies, innovative methods, and integrative conceptual analysis. Examples of how social neuroscience is contributing to our understanding of the functions of the brain and nervous system are described, and societal implications of social neuroscience are considered.
PMCID: PMC3098127  PMID: 21251011
Social neuroscience; functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); animal models; neuroimaging; lesion studies; affective and cognitive neuroscience

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