I Need Friends

Human beings are strongly dependent on their social surroundings, and close bonds to other persons constitute a feature of our environment that is central for our psychological well-being and health (Kawachi, 2001). Correspondingly, social exclusion is an aversive situation which is associated with emotional stress and increased risk for psychiatric disorders (Heinrichs et al., 2003).

In recent years, social neuroscientists have begun to investigate the neurobiological correlates of social exclusion. It has been demonstrated that social exclusion leads to emotional stress and, intriguingly, activates a network of brain regions that partly overlaps with regions implicated in the processing of physical pain. This led researchers to formulate the so called shared-circuits assumption. This states that in human brains, the neural architecture needed to signal threats to our physical integrity has developed to process emotional signals indicating threats to our social integrity, which is assumed to be equally important to our survival (Eisenberger & Lieberman, 2004; MacDonald & Leary, 2005).

Recently, a public television film team visited the Center of Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM) and the Social Neuroscience Lab (SNL) in the context of a children’s television program on friendship. The host of the show, Eric Mayer participated in the Cyberball paradigm intended to operationalize social exclusion in the fMRI scanner (Eisenberger, 2003). Additionally, he was subjected to mild physical pain to demonstrate the above mentioned line of research. The video material recorded for this show gives a view of the newly installed MRI scanner and other parts of the CBBM, and can be seen at (the CBBM part begins app. in the middle of the video and lasts 6 minutes):http://www.tivi.de/mediathek/pur-893542/ich-brauch-freunde-2724966/


  • Eisenberger, N. I. (2003). Does Rejection Hurt? An fMRI Study of Social Exclusion. Science, 302(5643), 290–292.
  • Eisenberger, N. I., & Lieberman, M. D. (2004). Why rejection hurts: A common neural alarm system for physical and social pain. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 8(7), 294–300.
  • Heinrichs, M., Baumgartner, T., Kirschbaum, C., & Ehlert, U. (2003). Social support and oxytocin interact to suppress cortisol and subjective responses to psychosocial stress. Biological Psychiatry, 54(12), 1389–1398.
  • Kawachi, I. (2001). Social Ties and Mental Health. Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 78(3), 458–467.
  • MacDonald, G., & Leary, M. R. (2005). Why Does Social Exclusion Hurt? The Relationship Between Social and Physical Pain. Psychological Bulletin,131(2), 202–223.

[Translate to english:] Moderator Eric Mayer von der ZDF Sendung PUR+ und Doktorand David Stolz aus der AG Krach im CBBM