According To Researchers, People With Larger Amygdalae Have Larger Social Networks

Iohana Georgescu

Written by Iohana Georgescu
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The human brain is quite complex...

People are fascinated with social networking sites. We don’t really have to go into the “why” and the “how” and we can simply call it human nature. The Internet now gives you the opportunity to keep in touch with as many friends and acquaintances as you may have. If you’re already set up an account on Facebook chances are you have at least thirty or forty people in your friends’ list. While a couple of days ago we’ve covered why some people are more popular than others on social networking sites such as Facebook, today we’ve heard about another report that links the structure of a person’s brain to how sociable that person is in general.

Reportedly the size of a person’s amygdale has a lot to do with how large that person’s network of friends is. If you were wondering what we’re talking about, the amygdalae are apparently almond-shaped groups of nuclei situated deep within the medial temporal lobes of the brain of humans as well as several other creatures. Researchers have discovered on previous occasions that they play the role in processing and memory of emotional reactions. This is not the first time that the amygdale volume is connected to social networking. Scientists report that nonhuman primate species that have larger social groups generally have larger amygdales. The next step was to study the same part of the brain in humans and notice whether the size affects the way people interact and form social networks in any way. The results were published in a recent issue of Nature Neuroscience.

According to Ars Technica the researchers measured two social network factors in 58 adults. Initially they analyzed the size of any of the adults’ social networks (basically the total number of people that keep in touch with the said person frequently). After that, they measured the network’s complexity and determined how many different groups can be formed from any participant’s contacts. The next step was to figure out how all this data varied based on the size of a participant’s amygdale and hippocampus. The reason why they included the hippocampus in the research was that it wouldn’t vary at all based on social networks so it served as negative control.

The conclusion? There really is a connection between the size of the amygdale and the size of a person’s social network as well as the complexity of it. Reportedly the effect showed no lateralization, meaning that both the left and right amygdale volumes were either larger or smaller. Another thing researchers discovered was that the social network size and complexity wasn’t linked in any way to the size of the hippocampus or other subcortical areas. The only question that remains though is, are we born with larger amygdalae or do they grow as we form our personality and based on external factors? While this report proves that amygdale volume is somehow linked to social networks in humans, we could safely assume that the more a person interacts with people the larger that person’s amygdalae get.11

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