What? socializing is beneficial to your brain? According to a recent study in Science Daily – friendships -and connecting with others (even annoying sisters as depicted in this photo) is what sets us apart from our primate cousins.
The study suggests that we need to employ a set of cognitive skills to maintain a number of friends (and the keyword is ‘friends’ as opposed to just the total number of people we know). These skills are described by social scientists as ‘mentalising’ or ‘mind-reading‘- a capacity to understand what another person is thinking, which is crucial to our ability to handle our complex social world, including the ability to hold conversations with one another. This study, for the first time, suggests that our competency in these skills is determined by the size of key regions of our brains (in particular, the frontal lobe).
Professor Robin Dunbar, said: ‘We found that individuals who had more friends did better on mentalising tasks and had more neural volume in the orbital frontal cortex, the part of the forebrain immediately above the eyes. Understanding this link between an individual’s brain size and the number of friends they have helps us understand the mechanisms that have led to humans developing bigger brains than other primate species. The frontal lobes of the brain, in particular, have enlarged dramatically in humans over the last half million years.’
Want to stimulate that big beautiful human brain of yours? We liked these three simple tips (including building social networks) from Howcast.com.
- Increase your Network Build as broad a social network as you can to help stave off the effects of Alzheimer’s; a study has indicated that people who actively engage with a large group of friends are more likely to retain cognitive function as they age.
- Learn a language Befriend people from foreign countries and join groups that use another language to communicate. Immersing yourself in a foreign language can help your brain become flexible and develop fluency.
Adapt and conquer: Keep up with updates to your current social networks and learn to use new technology as it’s released; adapting to changes in interactive media increases function in areas of the brain that affect decision making and short-term memory.