The research, which was published in the journal Proceeding of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences, conducted brain scans which revealed a link between the number of Facebook friends a person has and the size of specific parts of their brain.
It is not yet clear whether using these kinds of social networking sites boosts our brainpower, but what is clear is that it does have an effect on the parts of the brain that are involved in memory and interaction.
Dr Ryota Kanai, a researcher on the project said, ‘‘We have found some interesting brain regions that seem to link to the number of friends we have – both ‘real’ and ‘virtual’’’.
The amygdala is a region of the brain that is associated with emotional responses and memory, and previous research has shown that there is a connection between the amount of grey matter (the area of the brain where mental processing occurs) in this area and the size of real world social networks.
Three additional areas of the brain were also found to have a connection with the size of an individuals online social circle, but not the number of their real life friends.
According to Head of Neuroscience and Mental Health at the Wellcome Trust, Dr John Williams, the new study illustrates how investigations such as these help us to understand how our brains are evolving as they adapt to the challenges posed by social media.
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