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SOCIAL NETWORKING AND THE BRAIN


By Amanda Gardner

HealthDay Reporter – Mon Dec 27, 5:03 pm ET

MONDAY, Dec. 27 (HealthDay News) -- The size of your amygdala, an almond-shaped portion of the brain involved in emotions, may be as strong a marker for having rich and varied social relationships as how many "friends" you have on Facebook, researchers say.


Scientists report in the Dec. 26 online edition of Nature Neuroscience that people with larger and more complex social networks also have larger amygdalas....For this latest study, scientists at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital had 58 healthy adults aged 19 to 83 years answer questions about the number of people they maintained regular contact with and about the number of social groups they belonged to -- considered an indication of the complexity of each person's social network.


The volume of the amygdala was measured via MRI. As it turned out, the more extensive and more complex a person's social network was, the larger the amygdala. This was true regardless of the age or gender of the participant.

On the other hand, there was no link between number of social contacts and the size of other parts of the brain.


• So are people more social because they have a large amygdala, or the other way around? Brain expert Richard Restak has documented that the brain changes shape based upon our behavior.

• My view, some of both. Some people are born social, but all of us can learn to become more social, and thus enrich our lives.

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