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Social connection is important in the face of the Coronavirus outbreak, according to neuroscience

In the face of the Coronavirus outbreak, everyone of us is trying our best to minimise social contact with others to prevent being infected. It is inevitable that we will feel more lonely and isolated these few months. We may feel disconnected as many group social gatherings are postponed or cancelled and many people stay home for quarantine.

In view of this, many of my friends are starting to use online channels, such as Zoom and BlueJeans.   Despite it is not exactly the same as in person connection, I find online video group chat a very good experience for connecting with my friends in groups during the outbreak. After connecting with my friends in group video chat, I can feel the same warmth and joy as in physical social gatherings. Why is it so important for us to maintain social connection with others during the outbreak?

According to psychoneuroimmunology, positive social connections are correlated with physical health. Social connectedness not only has positive effects on our mind and body, it also reduce the negative impact of stress in our lives. We may look into the neuroscientific research on mother-child attachment. A child’s interaction with the caretaker shapes the experience-dependent network in the brain, including the orbital medial prefrontal, insula, cingulate cortices as well as the amygdala for the regulation the child’s arousal, affect and emotions. If the child can attach to the caretaker securely, the brain development is conducive to emotional regulation, growth and immunological functioning. Based on this, it is reasonable to expect that having healthy attachment with our spouses, parents, children, or friends, can have positive effect on our physical and psychological well-being. In fact, research showed that healthy relationships regulate our emotions, metabolism and immunological functions.

Given all the uncertainties in the development of the pandemic, impact on the global and regional economy, as well as our daily lives, we inevitably face lots of stress and experience a certain level of anxiety. It is important for us to maintain close connections with our family and friends for social support and emotional connectedness for regulating our mood and boosting our immune system. The importance of social connection for us is backed up by neuroscience. It is a blessing for us in this era, because we can utilise technology to maintain connections with our beloved family and friends during the Coronavirus outbreak.

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