Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Better with Support

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Better with Support

Article excerpt

Researchers have identified specific damages to the brain that may occur when heart attack victims are socially isolated. The study in mice found that those animals that lived alone before undergoing a heart attack showed more damage to neurons in one part of the brain than similar animals that lived with others. While studies in humans have shown that socially isolated heart attack victims have a lower survival rate than others, this study may help reveal the mechanisms behind that finding, says Zachary Weil, coauthor of the study and former doctoral student in neuroscience at Ohio State University (OSU).

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"This study shows that there are basic changes that occur in the brain when a heart attack victim is socially isolated," Weil says. "In these mice, living with others seemed to provide strong protection from some of the damaging results of a heart attack."

The study appears in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. In the study, mice were put into two groups: members of one group lived alone, and the others lived communally in a cage with four other mice. After two weeks with these living arrangements, some of the mice underwent a surgically induced heart attack. Those in a control group underwent the same surgical procedure, but the researchers prevented any loss of oxygen to the brain that would occur in a typical heart attack.

Brain tissue and blood samples were later collected from the mice. Researchers compared damage in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that plays a key role in memory. A lack of oxygen during a severe heart attack--one where the victim stops breathing--can either kill or seriously damage neurons, the primary cells of the nervous system. …

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