How many Facebook friends do you have? A new report says the more friends you have on or off social networks, may be directly proportional to the size of your brain and this social interaction may help to increase your memory and mental functions. Wow, I’ve got to Friend more people!

According to a study at the University College London there is a direct link between the number of friends you have on your Facebook page and the size of certain areas of your brain. “Our findings support the idea that most Facebook users use the site to support their existing social relationships, maintaining or reinforcing these friendships, rather than just creating networks of entirely new, virtual friends,” said Professor Geraint Rees, a Wellcome Trust Senior Clinical Research Fellow at UCL in a press release.

Professor Rees and his team scanned the brains of 125 college-age Facebook users, and compared their brain scans with the size of each participant’s Facebook network and the number of friends they have off-line. Those with larger networks had more gray matter in several different regions of the brain.  The study also found that those who had large networks online also had many friends offline, and those with few friends online have a small circle of friend in the real world.

The three areas of the brain that showed an increase in size with online social networks are:

  • The amygdala – the area associated with processing memory, information and emotions.
  • The right superior temporal sulcus – where we discern where others are looking or what they are feeling.
  • The left middle temporal gyrus – associated with the recognition of faces, understanding word meanings and measuring distances.
  •  The right entorhinal cortex – the area that stores episodic, autobiographical or declarative memory, as well as many other functions.

“This new study illustrates how well-designed investigations can help us begin to understand whether or not our brains are evolving as they adapt to the challenges posed by social media,” said Rees.

These findings supported a 2008 report published by the University of Michigan published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Researchers found that a 10-minute conversation daily with another person improved memory and mental performance. “In our study, socializing was just as effective as more traditional kinds of mental exercise in improving memory and intellectual performance,” said Oscar Ybarra, a psychologist at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR).

“We found that short-term social interaction lasting for just 10 minutes boosted participants’ intellectual performance as much as engaging in so-called ‘intellectual’ activities for the same amount of time,” Ybarra said. “To our knowledge, this experiment represents the only causal evidence showing that social interaction directly affects memory and mental performance in a positive way.” The study also found that lack of social interaction can cause depression and has a negative effect on all types of mental abilities, such as studying, and leads to cognitive decline.

“The exciting question now is whether these [brain] structures change over time – this will help us answer the question of whether the internet is changing our brains,” says Lead author of the UCL study, Dr. Ryota Kanai.

Since research has concluded that socialization does help to improve memory and mental functions, and seems to increase various important parts of our brain structure, it only stands to reason that the more people you interact with the better your chances of delaying any mental problems related to age, and the brighter our chances for a connection that goes beyond social.

This is Ron White, and I am a two-time USA Memory Champion, memory training expert and memory keynote speaker.





Discovery News – More Facebook Friends Mean Bigger Brains:

Laureate Group – Impact of socialization on memory loss in older adults:

Brain Athlete – The Importance of Socialization On Memory: