Social Distacing in Brain

What social distancing does to a brain?

During the global pandemic, all the health experts advise us to maintain social distancing and self-isolation to prevent us from getting affected with deadly viruses, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV 2). But the question is that have you ever thought of how it does affect us in our lives and, most notably, our brain?

The international research team of Erin Schuman from an institute called Max Planck institute of brain research found that certain brain molecules act as a thermometer that shows other creatures’ presence in the environment.

A beautiful example stated by them is of zebrafish; the team of Erin Schuman believes that Zebrafishes feels the presence of other aquatic animals around them with the help of water movements and mechanosensation.

You must agree that different social conditions have a significant impact on our lives, and social distancing and social isolation have had a devastating effect on humans and other animals. Our brain sense every bit of our surrounding unconsciously.

To understand and analyze this concept well, Lukas Anneser (a college student) and colleagues raised some zebrafish alone and some with their kin for different periods. Researches used the technique of RNA sequencing to measure the expression level of numbers of neuronal genes.

Lukas Anneser and his team found a consistent change in the expression for a number of the gene in the zebrafishes raised in isolation. One of them was parathyroid hormone 2. This hormone tracks the presence of other people or animals around us and acknowledges their density.

Anneser further added that when zebrafishes kept in isolation, then parathyroid hormone two stopped showing its effect. But when they added some other fishes to the tank, the expression level rose like a thermometer reading.

After getting amazed by this experiment, the researchers decided to vice-versa of the previous experiment.  After swimming for almost 30 minutes with their kin, there was a good recovery of parathyroid hormone 2 levels. Anneser said that After 12 hours with kin, the parathyroid hormone 2 levels were indistinguishable from those seen in socially-raised animals. It is powerful and fast regulation and was unexpected and indicated a very close link between gene expression and the environment.

Erin Schuman explained that It is a sensory modality that regulates parathyroid hormone 2 and is a mechanosensation. It helps to feel the movement nearby.

Fishes sense the movement around their immediate vicinity through a sensory organ called a lateral line. To test mechanosensation working in fishes to drive parathyroid hormone 2 expressions, the research team surgically removed sensitive cells from the fish’s lateral line to continue with the experiment.

Just like we humans are sensitive to touch, fishes are sensitive to water movements due to other fishes’ swimming. The scientists noted the level of change in the parathyroid hormone 2 caused due to water movements in the tank.

After doing thorough research, Erin Schuman concluded that it is crystal clear that others’ presence can dramatically impact us for our survival. We must agree that it is our neurological hormones that regulate our brain to behave socially.

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