Many of us (especially during the recent pandemic) suffer feelings of loneliness, or the distress accompanying social disconnection. Persistent loneliness increases the risk of many negative outcomes including chronic disease, depression, and self-harm. Rates of loneliness increase during adolescence, and this increase is even greater among adolescents on the autism spectrum, making them especially vulnerable to these negative outcomes. Dr. Elizabeth Redcay and her team, including Psychology faculty Drs. Cassidy, Lemay, Shackman, and Yarger, are working to identify biopsychosocial risk and protective factors for loneliness in adolescents with and without autism with support from a recent $3.5 million NIH grant. This approach includes a longitudinal design with brain-based measures of social processing using functional MRI as well as measures of real-world social experiences through experience sampling methods. A better understanding of these risk and protective mechanisms, and whether they differ in high-risk populations, is critical to effectively intervening and reducing loneliness before the onset of other significant deleterious consequences. While not initially part of the proposal, they are also investigating how social isolation during the pandemic affects loneliness and well-being within a similar population.