I've got 637... No wonder I got into Penn State


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I've got 637 Facebook friends-- modest by some measures-- but impressive still in my opinion. Since February 2009, I've been adding, deleting, and blocking my friends, relatives, teachers, and (I'll admit) the occasional semi-stranger. So what does my 637 friends mean to science? Well, a study conducted by Professor Geraint Rees from the "Wellcome Trust Senior Clinical Research Fellow at University College London" which was covered in an article on FoxNews.com states that scientists have "have found a direct link between the number of Facebook friends a person has and the size of particular brain regions." The study also found that people with more Facebook friends tend to also have more "real" friends-- no duh.

In the study researchers studied the "brain scans of 125 university students - all active Facebook users. They compared the scans against the size of the students' friend networks, both online and in real life." Researchers found a correlation between the number of Facebook friends that an individual has and the amount of "gray matter in several regions of the brain." According to the study, the amygdala, which is responsible for many of our emotional responses, like anger and fear, and memory was larger. When the scientists compared the amount of gray matter with people's "real life" friends, they found a similar result.

If there really is a strong tie between these two factors, scientists would have seen a greater amount of gray matter in other areas of the brain associated with emotion. While the researchers did find a correlation between brain size and online friendships; they failed to find a relationship with real-life friends in three other major areas: "the right superior temporal sulcus, the left middle temporal gyrus and the right entorhinal cortex."

Well that just seems a little iffy to me. On paper, this study does not appear to have any real "guts" behind it. Even the researches said, "it is not possible from the data to say whether having more Facebook friends makes the regions of the brain larger or whether some people are 'hard-wired' to have more friends." Despite the so-so study design and somewhat vague findings, the study does pose an interesting question, "How is the social networking revolution affecting our brains?" (I ask as I'm wringing a blog). On a larger scale, it also makes us ask, "How is the Internet affecting the way our brains function and grow?"

In my opinion, it seems obvious to me that my generations' brains work differently than my grandmother's. However, what exactly is different is still somewhat of a mystery. What do you think?
facebook-brain-neurons.jpg

3 Comments

I think this is a bogus study to begin with. Does anyone even care how many friends they have on facebook- hopefully not. I do like the questions you have proposed about how internet affects the ways in which our brain function grow? There are tons of studies done on this-- a lot of schools now stopped using textbooks and the children are using Ipads. Although is an actual electronic, it is becoming more and more common to use the internet in the classroom. I'm sure the future generations will definitely have different brain functions than we did as a child.

I think this is a bogus study to begin with. Does anyone even care how many friends they have on facebook- hopefully not. I do like the questions you have proposed about how internet affects the ways in which our brain function grow? There are tons of studies done on this-- a lot of schools now stopped using textbooks and the children are using Ipads. Although is an actual electronic, it is becoming more and more common to use the internet in the classroom. I'm sure the future generations will definitely have different brain functions than we did as a child.

This post reminds me of a concept known as Dunbar's number. It's a theory that states that the maximum amount of personal connections the human brain can handle is 150. Here's a more depth explanation from Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number

And here's a more humorous explanation of the concept along with its impact on society:
http://www.cracked.com/article_14990_what-monkeysphere.html

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