Neural correlates of loneliness

Team (from left to right): Jana Lieberz, Ekaterina Kuskova, Dirk Scheele, Jessica Gorni, Maura Brauser

Loneliness is a subjective unpleasant experience that occurs when a person’s need to belong is not satisfied and his or her social relations are deficient, either quantitatively or qualitatively. Importantly, loneliness can be a catalyst for detriments in mental and physical health. In this project, we use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine how loneliness may affect interpersonal trust and the valuation of social interactions. 


Furthermore, there is mounting evidence that the hypothalamic peptide oxytocin (OT) plays a major role in the regulation of social cognition, suggesting that the OT system may be associated with altered social cognition in loneliness. We will evaluate the clinical potential of OT as an adjunct to group psychotherapy sessions in a translational proof-of-concept intervention for participants suffering from loneliness.


This project is funded by the German-Israel Foundation for Scientific Research and Development (GIF) and conducted in cooperation with Prof. René Hurlemann (University of Oldenburg, Germany) and Prof. Simone Shamay-Tsoory (University of Haifa, Israel).

If you are interested in participating in this study, please read more about our inclusion criteria (in German):