How friends matter to your brain
October 12th, 2010
05:01 PM ET

How friends matter to your brain

Your friends may matter to you in ways that you can't even see - at the level of neural circuitry in the brain.

It turns out that the brain's frontal midline, an area between the two hemispheres that is associated with socialization and the way you think about yourself, also shows a greater response from friends than strangers, even strangers with similar interests and lifestyles, said Fenna Krienen, graduate student at Harvard University and lead author of a new study on the subject.

"What we ended up finding is that closeness really seems to matter to these circuits in the brain much more than similarity," she said.

Krienen's study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, did four different functional magnetic imaging experiments on a total of 98 participants to explore these issues of brain activation and social ties.

They looked at how the brain would respond to strangers who have different interests from those of the participants, compared  with strangers with common interests, and whether that reaction would correspond to what they observed with friends.

Some participants viewed photos that they brought in of two friends and answered questions that mimicked the TV show “The Newlywed Game," which dealt with how their friends would answer particular questions. One of these friends was someone the individual participant considered similar to himself or herself; the other the participant viewed as dissimilar. They also did this with "strangers" - researchers had invented their biographies, and paired photos with them that previous participants had brought in of their friends. Some of these biographies indicated similar interests to those of the participants, others were different.

Researchers found that it didn't matter whether the strangers had common or dissimilar interests to their own - the strangers tended not to produce the same effect on the medial prefrontal regions and associated regions as the friends. It also didn't matter whether participants considered the friends similar or unlike themselves; the relevant brain regions showed enhanced responses to both kinds of friends.

"In every case, it seemed like friends were processed with much greater neural activity in brain networks that make sense to us than did strangers," Krienen said.

More precisely, the scientists saw increased blood oxygenation levels in the frontal midline and associated regions. This indicates increased neuronal activity in those areas.

This brain area, in addition to social responses, has been shown in other research to be involved in tasks that require calculating expected rewards and making other kinds of decisions.

Previous research had also looked at these regions on the question about how the brain responds to strangers, but this is a first look at how the similarity of acquaintances and strangers might play a role, Krienen said. The study proposes further research in this area, including a study of how the brain responds to a close acquaintance with whom the participant doesn't get along very well.

« Previous entry
soundoff (461 Responses)
  1. Marion Lossing

    Your style is so unique in comparison to other people I have read stuff from. Thank you for posting when you've got the opportunity, Guess I will just bookmark this page.


    June 12, 2021 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Johnny Bassuk

    Great article! We are linking to this great article on our website. Keep up the good writing.

    June 12, 2021 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. office supplies near me


    June 12, 2021 at 14:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. dump near me

    I blog quite often and I genuinely thank you for your content. This great article has truly peaked my interest. I am going to bookmark your site and keep checking for new details about once a week. I subscribed to your Feed too.


    June 12, 2021 at 14:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. golf courses near me

    After exploring a few of the blog posts on your blog, I honestly appreciate your technique of writing a blog. I bookmarked it to my bookmark website list and will be checking back in the near future. Please check out my website as well and tell me your opinion.


    June 12, 2021 at 16:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. escape rooms near me

    Aw, this was an incredibly nice post. Finding the time and actual effort to create a great articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I hesitate a lot and never manage to get nearly anything done.


    June 12, 2021 at 17:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. atm near me


    June 12, 2021 at 19:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. burgers near me

    You have made some decent points there. I checked on the net to learn more about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this web site.


    June 12, 2021 at 20:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. realtors near me

    This is a topic which is close to my heart... Many thanks! Where are your contact details though?


    June 12, 2021 at 22:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. brewery near me


    June 12, 2021 at 23:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. covid rapid testing near me

    A motivating discussion is worth comment. There's no doubt that that you need to write more about this topic, it may not be a taboo subject but generally people don't discuss such subjects. To the next! Best wishes!!


    June 13, 2021 at 03:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. rapid covid test near me

    Very good article. I'm experiencing a few of these issues as well..


    June 13, 2021 at 04:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. bojangles near me


    June 13, 2021 at 05:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. ice skating near me


    June 13, 2021 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. truc tiep bong da hôm nay u22

    Thẳng đá Bóng Việt Nam Vs Lebanon. Coi Truc Tiep Bong Da. Futsal Việt NamthedotvTrên băng ghế giảng dạy, Lebanon đã bửa nhiệm Ramiro Lopez cơ hội đây 3 tuần. Nhà cầm cố quân người Tây Ban Nha nhà yếu thực hiện việc tại Ý và từng có thời hạn thực hiện việc tại Kuwait.|Và NHM bóng đá Việt Nam đang đợi Minh Trí cùng đồng đội hóa giải đối thủ để tạo lợi thế đến trận lượt về tại đây hai ngày. Chelsea đã cần trải qua 8 phút bù giờ không thở được bảo vệ chiến thắng.


    June 13, 2021 at 12:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. ford dealership near me

    I absolutely love your website.. Great colors & theme. Did you build this website yourself? Please reply back as Iím wanting to create my very own website and would love to know where you got this from or what the theme is called. Thank you!


    June 13, 2021 at 14:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. appliance repair near me


    June 13, 2021 at 16:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. thrift stores near me


    June 13, 2021 at 19:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. hyundai dealer near me

    I like reading through an article that will make people think. Also, thank you for permitting me to comment!


    June 13, 2021 at 21:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. aaa near me


    June 13, 2021 at 22:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. lunch near me

    I absolutely love your website.. Great colors & theme. Did you make this web site yourself? Please reply back as Iím attempting to create my very own blog and would like to learn where you got this from or exactly what the theme is called. Thanks!


    June 13, 2021 at 23:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. gravel near me

    I used to be able to find good info from your articles.


    June 14, 2021 at 01:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. watch repair near me


    June 14, 2021 at 01:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. meijer near me

    bookmarked!!, I like your website!


    June 14, 2021 at 03:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. aa meetings near me

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you writing this post and the rest of the website is also really good.


    June 14, 2021 at 03:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. barber shops near me

    Next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesn't fail me as much as this one. After all, I know it was my choice to read, but I truly believed you would have something useful to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something you could possibly fix if you were not too busy searching for attention.


    June 14, 2021 at 03:44 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

« Previous entry
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.