Socialites, curmudgeons may have different brain structures

June 1st, 2009 - 12:55 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, June 1 (ANI): A British study suggests that the brains of socialites and curmudgeons may be differently structured.

Published in the European Journal of Neuroscience, the study involved 41 randomly selected men, who were asked to fill a questionnaire assessing their own tendency to, say, “make a warm personal connection.”

Graham Murray, a University of Cambridge researcher who led the study, revealed that those who reported being sociable and emotionally demonstrative also tended to have denser cell concentration in two brain structures: the orbitofrontal cortex and the ventral striatum.

Previously conducted studies have already shown correlations between the size of a particular brain structure and physical behaviour, such as the classic finding that taxi drivers often have more developed hippocampi, structures associated with spatial memory.

However, it still remained to be determined whether the above-average geographic abilities existed before or only developed after the subjects became cabbies.

Murray says that his team’s structural research is backed by a recent study published in Nature Neuroscience, which showed that strong neuronal connections between the orbitofrontal cortex and striatum were also associated with social pleasure.

“Connectivity encourages growth of brain regions,” Live Science quoted Murray as saying.

So taken together the studies suggest two causal relationships, he added.

According to the researchers, a particular brain composition could create a warm personality, but experiencing social behavior could also create a social brain.

Murray theorized that it might be that both nature and nurture act in tandem, creating “a snowball effect”. Experience spurs brain growth, brain growth influences behaviour, behaviour affects experience and around we go.

While personality develops most rapidly during childhood and adolescence, traits are never completely fixed.

Murrey said that even in adulthood, “social experiences could have their effect by changing brain structures over time.”

The researcher revealed that the brain areas identified during the study also respond to pleasures, such as food and sex, which are necessary for species survival.

He reckons that over the course of evolution, socializing may have also become a critical need.

“Humans and our ancestors became the smart animals that we are because we had to deal with one another,” agreed David Bjorklund of Florida Atlantic University, who was not involved in the current study.

It is perhaps in response to certain environmental pressures-such as lack of food or extended juvenile periods, requiring humans to learn to cooperate-that social traits develop, he said.

Other animals also take pleasure in socializing, but humans enjoy it in a definitively intricate way.

Murrey said that humans might have taken what was a simple survival mechanism, and developed it into a complex pleasure.

“(Even today) social interaction is vital for us,” he said. (ANI)

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