Feeling socially excluded creates and brings to life a very painful experience that can have many negative consequences from social ones to those related to the health of the individual. The emotions we feel are so negative that they can lead to depression, social isolation, even suicide.
Neuroscience studies have shown that the experience of social exclusion recruits brain areas also involved in the experience of physical pain, demonstrating its neuroscientific base.
So how is it possible to help those who experience this kind of painful experience? To date, no study has verified which kind of social support is really effective at the neuroscientific level.
The first article on this was published in the international journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (SCAN). The first author, Rosalba Morese of the University of Italian Switzerland in Lugano, Switzerland, carried out this study with a team of international researchers, the famous researchers Giorgia Silani and Claus Lamm of the University of Vienna.
The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to understand which kind of social support may decrease the negative emotions of social exclusion. The results of the research demonstrate that social support is really effective if it is affective-emotional with the touch of the hand, reducing negative emotions and also the activation of brain areas recruited during the experience of social exclusion. On the other hand, other types of social exclusion, such as reading messages that help to better understand the situation, can even amplify the pain and negative emotions by activating the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex, the area of the brain activated in depressed patients.
Rosalba Morese of the University of Italian Switzerland, Lugano, Switzerland emphasizes that this study is very important because it represents an effective way to understand how to help people who experience this social pain.
Morese R., Lamm C., Bosco M. F., Valentini M.C., Silani G. (2019) Social support modulates the neural correlates underlying social exclusion. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, nsz033. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsz033