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Cognitive and Neural Correlates of Loneliness and Wisdom during Emotional Bias.


Loneliness and wisdom have opposing impacts on health and well-being, yet their neuro-cognitive bases have never been simultaneously investigated. In this study of 147 healthy human subjects sampled across the adult lifespan, we simultaneously studied the cognitive and neural correlates of loneliness and wisdom in the context of an emotion bias task. Aligned with the social threat framework of loneliness, we found that loneliness was associated with reduced speed of processing when angry emotional stimuli were presented to bias cognition. In contrast, we found that wisdom was associated with greater speed of processing when happy emotions biased cognition. Source models of electroencephalographic data showed that loneliness was specifically associated with enhanced angry stimulus-driven theta activity in the left transverse temporal region of interest, which is located in the area of the temporoparietal junction (TPJ), while wisdom was specifically related to increased TPJ theta activity during happy stimulus processing. Additionally, enhanced attentiveness to threatening stimuli for lonelier individuals was observed as greater beta activity in left superior parietal cortex, while wisdom significantly related to enhanced happy stimulus-evoked alpha activity in the left insula. Our results demonstrate emotion-context driven modulations in cognitive neural circuits by loneliness versus wisdom.

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