Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Strange experiments and research findings

By Magdeline Lum

Facebook Boosting Grey Matter

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

The many hours pored over Facebook may not be in vain after all – they could be adding grey matter to the part of the brain linked with social skills. Prof Geraint Rees of University College, London found a correlation between the number of Facebook friends and a higher density of grey matter in a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

What’s a high number of Facebook friends? As part of the study, a group of 125 university students whose average age was 23 reported having just several to nearly 1000 Facebook friends. The researchers shied away from defining what constitutes a high number of Facebook friends but did refer to Dunbar’s Number, which limits the average social circle of one person to 150 people.

MRI scans of the brains of volunteers were taken. The researchers found that people who reported higher number of Facebook friends had a higher density of brain matter in three areas of the brain: the superior temporal sulcus, middle gyrus and the entorhinal complex. These three areas are linked to social skills such as perception of social cues from others from facial expressions and memories for faces and names.

In a separate experiment a subsample of 65 volunteers was chosen to see whether there was a link between the online world and real world in brain structure. The volunteers provided details on their friends in the real...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.