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What does it say about a person when they have hundreds of Facebook friends? For one thing, new findings suggest, it says they have a highly developed right superior temporal sulcus.
A study published Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B found that the more connections someone has on social networking sites, the denser the grey matter in several specific brain regions linked to social cognition. It remains to be seen whether adding Facebook friends causes the increase in grey matter, or vice versa.
"The exciting question now is whether these structures change over time,” one of the researchers told Reuters. “This will help us answer the question of whether the Internet is changing our brains.”
The research team asked 165 college-age volunteers how many Facebook friends and real-world friends they had, then performed MRI scans on their brains. Both Facebook friends and real-world friends correlated with higher grey-matter density in one part of the brain, the amygdala. But three other parts of the brain were denser only in those with more virtual friends, suggesting some differences in the neurological bases of real-world and online interactions.
An Oxford professor not involved in the research cautioned that the study doesn’t mean Facebook is a shortcut to making people brainier, Reuters noted. “If you got yourself 100 new Facebook friends today then your brain would not be bigger tomorrow. The study cannot tell us whether using the Internet is good or bad for our brains.”