Does Facebook Make Your Brain Bigger?

  • Share
  • Read Later

How social you are on social networks may depend on the size of your brain, according to new research. Or, at least, the size of your superior temporal sulcus, middle temporal gyrus, entorhinal cortex and amygdalae.

The research, from University College in London, discovered that those who are more social in general tend to have larger amygdalae than their peers, but that those who are more social online also have increased sizes of the right superior temporal sulcus, the left middle temporal gyrus and the right entorhinal cortex. For those curious: The superior temporal sulcus is known to give cues about others’ emotions, while the middle temporal gyrus helps us react to said social cues. The entorhinal cortex, meanwhile, has been linked to our memory.

(MORE: Tila, Quarterlife and $#*!: Why Social Media and Old Media Don’t Mix)

Researchers are uncertain what this information means or, more interestingly, whether the larger brain sections are the cause or the result of the size of the subjects’ social networks.

125 students were initially examined for the study, which compared MRI scans of each student’s brain with the number of friends each had in the real world and on Facebook. After noticing the link between the enlarged areas and Facebook friends, an additional 40 students were examined to double-check the connection.

Gearing Rees believes that the results of this study don’t answer questions so much as indicate new areas to investigate: “It is also possible, as it is with any correlation, that there’s a third factor that’s driving it, that’s driving the changes in brain structure and the number of friends. The significance isn’t so much that it tells the whole story, but it gives us a way to answer important questions,” he said.

MORE: New Eye Clinic to Solve the Headache of 3D Movies?

Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.