Scientists have found that the bigger your Facebook friend roster is, the larger your brain is.
Researchers at the University College of London wanted to investigate whether hand-wringing over the Internet being bad for humans is really necessary. So they studied brain scans from 125 university students, all of whom were active Facebook users. They compared their brains to the size of the students' network of friends and found that the gray matter in students with lots of Facebook friends was more voluminous than in people with fewer friends.
Gray matter is where the processing happens. Specifically, the amygdala, a region associated with memory and emotional responses, was larger in the friendier Facebook users.
An earlier study showed the same brain-size association with number of real-world friends—but only in the amygdala.
Other regions were larger in relation to Facebook friends, but not real-life friends. One example: the right superior temporal sulcus, which, interestingly, helps us perceive moving objects as biological and is associated with autism.
The scientists don't know whether the larger brain regions are a result of having more friends, or if that particular gray matter might somehow facilitate having more friends, making friend hoarders hard wired to be more social. Personally I'd much rather assume it's the former. I hate hard wiring! Change is good.
"The exciting question now is whether these structures change over time—this will help us answer the question of whether the internet is changing our brains," said Ryota Kanai, the first author of the study, which is being published in the October 19 issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. [EurekAlert]
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