Could using Facebook be making you brainier?

by Dale Wright

Scientists think they’ve found a connection between the number of friends someone has – either online or offline – and the size of certain areas in the brain.

The number of Facebook friends you have could also be linked to the way you interact with people, how you remember things and how you react emotionally to people around you. The results suggest that your friend count could also be linked to your pre-disposition to autism.

The research was conducted at University College London and involved scanning the brains of 125 students in an MRI scanner, then using another 40 students for cross-checking. The team compared the brain scans with the number of ‘real life’ friends the students have, as well as the number of online, ‘virtual’ friends on social networking sites.

The students had an average of 300 friends each, but some had more than 1,000. The link between the amount of ‘grey matter’ in their brain tissue and their friend count was very clear, the team say.

Now the researchers need to figure out whether using sites like Facebook is actually changing the way people’s brains are wired up, or whether people who have certain brain types are more likely to make friends in real life or online.

Now that Facebook has 800 million users, it has a massive influence on our lives. Most of us can check Facebook on our phones, on holiday or at work, so any impact on the way our brains work could be a very big deal.

Of course, some might say that the students with 1,000 friends would be brainier if they studied more, rather than being on Facebook!

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