The Lasting Effects of Social Isolation in Adolescence

What happens when a teenager’s social life isn’t so happy?

One way to find out is to study social development in animals. A new study in mice reveals that a lack of social interaction during adolescence has lasting consequences in adulthood, changing the structure of the brain and altering normal development and decision-making behavior. Mice isolated as young adults do not show the same changes. “This lends a lot of support to the idea that adolescence is a critical period during which social experience is sculpting the brain,” says neuroscientist Shannon L. Gourley of Emory University, senior author on the new paper

The goal of this research is not only to better understand adolescent brain development but to develop therapeutic interventions that might help struggling or depressed teenagers. And the study, published in eNeuro, showed promising results for a drug that helped keep brain development on track. “We’re interested in thinking about correcting brain architecture as a way to cure,” Gourley says.

Dr. Gourley is a faculty member in the MSP and NS programs.

Click here to view the full story in Psychology Today.