Saturday 10 December 2016

Facebook 'may be changing brains'

Published 19/10/2011 | 01:42

Scientists have found a direct link between the number of 'Facebook friends' a person has and the size of specific parts of the brain
Scientists have found a direct link between the number of 'Facebook friends' a person has and the size of specific parts of the brain

Facebook may be changing people's brains as well as their social world, research has shown.

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Scientists have found a direct link between the number of "Facebook friends" a person has and the size of specific parts of the brain.

The regions involved have roles in social interaction as well as memory and at least one is implicated in autism.

It could be that the differences seen are due to the effects of online activity on the brain.

Alternatively, people with certain brain traits may be more likely to have larger numbers of friends, both on Facebook and in the real world.

"We have found some interesting brain regions that seem to link to the number of friends we have - both 'real' and 'virtual'," said Dr Ryota Kanai, one of the researchers from University College London.

"The exciting question now is whether these structures change over time. This will help us answer the question of whether the internet is changing our brains."

The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Professor Geraint Rees, from UCL, who led the Wellcome Trust-funded research, said: "Online social networks are massively influential, yet we understand very little about the impact they have on our brains. This has led to a lot of unsupported speculation the internet is somehow bad for us.

"Our study will help us begin to understand how our interactions with the world are mediated through social networks. This should allow us to start asking intelligent questions about the relationship between the internet and the brain - scientific questions, not political ones."

Press Association

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