Monday, January 31, 2011

Growing a Bigger Brain with a Larger Social Network

The bigger your social network, the bigger your brain - well, at least your amygdala.

But is having a bigger amygdala better? One research team's speculation:


"In the context of our findings, Striedter’s “large equals well-connected” rule suggests that humans with a larger amygdala with denser connectivity might be better equipped to seek out, learn about, and coordinate appropriate neural and behavioral responses to multifaceted visual information that allows people to develop and maintain a larger, more complex social network."

Actually the data about having a larger vs. smaller amygdala is still unclear. It may be that more than size, other markers or indicators will be important for sorting out benefit (for instance, in some instances larger amygdala are seen in autism, but in healthy adults, "agreeableness" seemed to correlate with larger amygdala as well.

To calculate your social network, fill out the Social Network Index here. If you want to figure this out using your Facebook statistics, check here. The SNI reflects "how many people you see or talk to on a regular basis including family, friends, workmates, neighbors, etc."


Amygdala and social network size
Supplementary information social network
Social media picture

2 comments:

  1. I actually heard Temple Grandin speak last week, and in her talk she mentioned that a brain scan showed her Amygdala was 3 times the normal size. Having Aspberger's I'm certain her enlarged Amygdala wasn't contributing to social skills. She felt it was the source of her anxiety issues, and when they treated her with very low doses of antidepressants, her anxiety diminished significantly.

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  2. Bigger doesn't mean better does it? But there may also be oversensitivities in that amygdala in Aspergers- the devil's in the details. We don't have enough resolution to really know these connectivity and size differences between Aspergers, non-Aspergers, and social and pro-social people.

    It is kind of interesting thinking about how what we do is structurally changing our brains though. This is all a lot like Kandel's sea slugs. When they learned a new task, he could see synapses changes and neurotransmitter changes.

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