News Blog: Brain study finds links between number of Facebook friends and brain size


Looking at the number of friends one has on Facebook does not only show how popular that person is. A research released by scientists from the University College London suggests the number of friends one has on Facebook predicts how much grey matter the person has in certain regions of his brain.

The research, titled “Online social network size is reflected in human brain structure” and published on the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, discovers that the more Facebook friends a person has, the more grey matter that person has in the amygdala, the right superior temporal sulcus, left middle temporal gyrus and entorhinal cortex. While the latter three regions are specifically associated with online social network sizes, the amygdala is correlated to both real-life and online social network sizes.

The study also shows a person who has more Facebook friends also tends to have more real-life friends.

According to the journal, the research collected MRI images of 125 college students by scanning their brains, and looked into both their online and real-life social networks. Then the result is compared to another sample of 40 college students.

Although the study shows a link between the number of Facebook friends and the sizes of those brain regions, researchers of the study emphasized that the data collected does not show whether a person is born to have strong networking skills, or the size of those brain regions are changed through social networking.

“Finally, our study was by design cross-sectional and so cannot determine whether the relationship between brain structure and social network participation arises over time through friendship-dependent plasticity in the brain areas involved; or alternatively whether individuals with a specific brain structure are predisposed to acquire more friends than others,” said the researchers at the end of their journal article. “The relative contributions of ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ therefore remain to be determined.”

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