A study of fruit flies by The Rockefeller University, New York, USA, has shown how loneliness can have a physical effect on the body.
Fruit flies are social creatures, much like humans, and are therefore a good model for understanding the impact of periods of isolation, such as during Covid-19.
In the study, published in Nature, the team observed flies kept in small groups or in total isolation, and noticed that the single flies started sleeping less and eating twice as much as social flies.
Looking at the brain, the team noticed changes in some gene activity, in particular from one group of neurons which they suggest could be involved in controlling the social state of the fly.
“Evolution packed a great deal of complexity into [fruit flies] long ago and, when we dig into their systems, we often find the rudiments of something that is also manifest in mammals and humans,” said lead author Michael W. Young.