"We're interested in how your brain is able to allow you to navigate in complex social environments," study researcher MaryAnn Noonan, a neuroscientist at Oxford University, said.

The research suggests a connection between social interactions and brain structure. In order to analyze these brain differences in humans, Noonan and colleagues recruited 18 participants for a structural brain-imaging study.
The researchers asked people how many social interactions they had experienced in the past month, in order to determine the size of their social networks. They found some brain areas were enlarged and better connected in people with larger social networks, as was the case in monkeys.

In case of humans, these areas were the temporal parietal junction, the anterior cingulated cortex and the rostral prefrontal cortex, which are part of a network involved in
"metallization", the ability to attribute mental states, thoughts and beliefs to another.

Whether the size of a person's social network was linked with changes in white-matter pathways, the nerve fibers that connect different brain regions, was also tested. Researchers found that white-matter tracts were better connected in people with bigger social networks.


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