Good friends' brains operate in similar ways

A new study shows that the brains of close friends operate in similar ways.
By Joseph Scalise | Feb 02, 2018
Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles have found evidence that close friends may literally think alike, according to recent researchpublishedin Nature Communications.

This discovery comes from a comprehensive study on the activity of the human brain that looked at the differences in connections between friends and distant acquaintances. Researchers found that friends had similar brain activity, while acquaintances did not. That correlation was so strong that the team could predict if people were friends by only studying their brains.

While it is impossible to tell if this link is the result of a friendship, or if it exists because friends tend to already view the world in the same way, it presents a new look into how the organ operates. There are many reasons people can become friends, including age, gender, and personality. However, even when those are taken into account, brain activity still appears to be a factor.

Scientists looked at 280 students, and almost all of them had at least one person they considered a friend in the research. The team showed the subjects a number of video clips aimed to get an emotional response and then used a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine to scan their brain waves.

Results revealed that many friends had similar activity in specific brain regions. In addition, some regions -- including the parietal lobules, the nucleus accumbens, and the amygdala -- have been linked with emotion and processing facial expressions.

"Neural responses to dynamic, naturalistic stimuli, like videos, can give us a window into people's unconstrained, spontaneous thought processes as they unfold," said lead author Carolyn Parkinson, a researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, in a statement. "Our results suggest that friends process the world around them in exceptionally similar ways."

There is no doubt this information is interesting. However, scientists believe no definitive conclusions can be drawn from the data. That is because the brain is a complex organism and there could be several different reasons for the study results.

"Some of the brain regions implicated here are functionally heterogeneousthey're involved in many different things," explained Parkinson, according to Newsweek.

Despite that limitation, the study is the first of its kind and could lead to more research in the future. Researchers plan to follow up on the study to see what else they can figure out about human connection.

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