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 (654 Responses)
  1. pills that give energy

    May I just say what a comfort to discover somebody who truly understands what they are talking about over the internet. You definitely realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More and more people should read this and understand this side of your story. I can't believe you aren't more popular because you most certainly have the gift.


    May 19, 2021 at 02:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Social Media Marketing Agency Anaheim


    May 19, 2021 at 06:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Flat Roof Repair Near Me


    May 19, 2021 at 08:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Digital Marketing Firms Orange County


    May 19, 2021 at 09:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. god mom gifts


    May 19, 2021 at 10:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Local Marketing Business


    May 19, 2021 at 18:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. RV Countertops Orange County


    May 19, 2021 at 18:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. RV Couches Near Me


    May 19, 2021 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. RV Shower Los Angeles

    I blog often and I really appreciate your content. This great article has really peaked my interest. I am going to bookmark your blog and keep checking for new information about once a week. I subscribed to your Feed as well.


    May 19, 2021 at 19:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Video Marketing Service


    May 20, 2021 at 00:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Google Marketing Experts

    Excellent post. I will be facing some of these issues as well..


    May 20, 2021 at 01:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Local Marketing Firm

    Good day! I could have sworn I’ve been to this web site before but after looking at a few of the articles I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m certainly happy I stumbled upon it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!


    May 20, 2021 at 08:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Content Marketing Boutique

    Wonderful post! We are linking to this great post on our website. Keep up the great writing.


    May 20, 2021 at 10:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. RV Washing Near Me

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this article and also the rest of the site is really good.


    May 20, 2021 at 13:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Transit Van Repair Panels


    May 20, 2021 at 15:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Social Media Marketing Service

    Good post. I will be facing many of these issues as well..


    May 20, 2021 at 19:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Video Marketing Service


    May 20, 2021 at 20:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. RV Steps Orange County


    May 20, 2021 at 21:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. RV Steps Orange County


    May 21, 2021 at 02:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Content Marketing Business


    May 21, 2021 at 03:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Mercedes Benz Collision Repair Sprinter Van


    May 21, 2021 at 05:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. RV Windows California


    May 21, 2021 at 06:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Dodge Van Frame Repair Kit


    May 21, 2021 at 07:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. RV Repair Near Me


    May 21, 2021 at 07:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. RV Remodeling Orange County


    May 21, 2021 at 11:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. rv repair shops near me

    You've made some decent points there. I looked on the internet for more info about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this web site.


    May 21, 2021 at 13:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. riverside collision provo

    Everyone loves it when people come together and share opinions. Great website, stick with it!


    May 21, 2021 at 14:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. RV Seats Los Angeles

    You ought to be a part of a contest for one of the best blogs on the web. I will highly recommend this blog!


    May 21, 2021 at 15:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. RV Dashboard Los Angeles


    May 22, 2021 at 01:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. truck shop orange

    I was excited to find this great site. I need to to thank you for ones time just for this fantastic read!! I definitely savored every part of it and i also have you saved to fav to look at new information on your site.


    May 22, 2021 at 10:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. RV Couches Riverside


    May 22, 2021 at 11:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Content Marketing Company


    May 22, 2021 at 13:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Video Marketing Service


    May 22, 2021 at 19:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. vinyl repair near me

    Good article. I am facing some of these issues as well..


    May 23, 2021 at 01:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. RV Furniture California

    You need to take part in a contest for one of the greatest blogs online. I will highly recommend this site!


    May 23, 2021 at 17:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. rv furniture san diego

    Everyone loves it when people come together and share thoughts. Great blog, stick with it!


    May 24, 2021 at 00:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Internet Marketing Consultants

    I blog frequently and I truly appreciate your content. This great article has really peaked my interest. I am going to bookmark your site and keep checking for new information about once a week. I subscribed to your Feed too.


    May 24, 2021 at 00:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. RV Technician Orange County


    May 24, 2021 at 19:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. camera repair orange county ca


    May 24, 2021 at 22:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Forklift Cylinders

    After looking into a handful of the blog articles on your web page, I really like your way of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark site list and will be checking back in the near future. Please visit my website as well and let me know how you feel.


    May 24, 2021 at 23:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Forklift Repair Near Me

    Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thank you so much, However I am going through troubles with your RSS. I don’t know the reason why I cannot subscribe to it. Is there anybody else getting similar RSS problems? Anyone who knows the answer will you kindly respond? Thanx!!


    May 25, 2021 at 01:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Forklift Service California

    Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular article! It is the little changes that produce the greatest changes. Thanks for sharing!


    May 25, 2021 at 01:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Forklift Rental Los Angeles

    I blog frequently and I genuinely appreciate your content. The article has really peaked my interest. I'm going to bookmark your site and keep checking for new details about once per week. I subscribed to your Feed too.


    May 25, 2021 at 01:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Digital Marketing Near Me

    An intriguing discussion is worth comment. There's no doubt that that you need to write more on this issue, it might not be a taboo matter but generally folks don't talk about such topics. To the next! Kind regards!!


    May 25, 2021 at 02:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Social Media Marketing Companies Near Me

    Howdy! I could have sworn Iíve visited this site before but after browsing through many of the posts I realized itís new to me. Anyhow, Iím definitely happy I came across it and Iíll be book-marking it and checking back regularly!


    May 25, 2021 at 02:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Forklift Tires Orange County


    May 25, 2021 at 05:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Digital Marketing Businesses


    May 25, 2021 at 06:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Digital Marketing Experts

    I was able to find good info from your content.


    May 25, 2021 at 07:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Social Media Marketing Consultant


    May 25, 2021 at 07:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Social Media Marketing Market


    May 25, 2021 at 10:46 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

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.