Event Abstract

Only the lonely? The relationship between social isolation and dementia: a behavioural rodent study

  • 1 KULeuven, Psychology, Belgium

Some risk factors that can be detected early in adulthood might render a person more susceptible to cognitive decline. It is becoming increasingly clear that social isolation could be such a risk factor for age-related cognitive decline and dementia. Social isolation has been linked to a higher risk in developing dementia in elderly persons. But in our modern society, loneliness is also highly prevalent among adults. Numbers in the US range from 25 to 60%, which could possibly result in social isolation and thus an increased risk of developing, accelerating or exacerbating dementia pathology and symptoms. Moreover, changes in social interaction and electronic communication are placing an increasing proportion of the adult demographic at risk for loneliness. Given the high prevalence of social isolation, studying the effects of this on mental health is more timely than ever. We found that mice that were isolated for 4 weeks during adolescence developed a specific dementia-like phenotype compromising both cognitive and non-cognitive domains, compared to socially housed animals. This behavioural phenotype was expressed as reduced investigation of social stimuli and intense aversive responses toward them, such as freezing. Importantly, the mice displayed a long-lasting impairment in a memory task. This phenomenon was found to be dependent on proper social learning. Implications for the clinic and therapeutic strategies and interventions are discussed.


A VdJ is supported by an FWO fellowship.

Keywords: Neurodegenerative Diseases, Dementia, Social Behavior, Alzheimer Disease, mouse models

Conference: 12th National Congress of the Belgian Society for Neuroscience, Gent, Belgium, 22 May - 22 May, 2017.

Presentation Type: Oral Presentation

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System

Citation: Van Der Jeugd A (2019). Only the lonely? The relationship between social isolation and dementia: a behavioural rodent study. Front. Neurosci. Conference Abstract: 12th National Congress of the Belgian Society for Neuroscience. doi: 10.3389/conf.fnins.2017.94.00120

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Received: 03 Mar 2017; Published Online: 25 Jan 2019.

* Correspondence: Miss. Ann Van Der Jeugd, KULeuven, Psychology, Leuven, 3000, Belgium, ann.vanderjeugd@psy.kuleuven.be