WE SHARE A NEURAL FRIENDSHIP

neural response to friendship

Dear Friend,
Thank you for being so similar to me. Even to the extent of having a similar brain structure as mine.

It has been long known that when we choose friends, we tend to do so hoping to find bits and pieces of ourselves in them. This similarity could be in personality, preferences, ethnicity, knowledge, educational level, socioeconomic status, interests in current affairs, etc.

New studies proposed that the depths of friendship go well beyond human imagination. When researchers conducted a test to see how close friends react to short videos, it was shocking to see that their reactions had striking resemblance! Brains showed the same rise and fall in attention and distraction span, to the extent that even boredom struck the friends at the same time. Intriguing, isn’t it?

The short videos ranged from a wide array of topics. From current affairs to Liam Neeson trying his hand at improving comedy, the neural response to these videos were so compatible among friends (compared to patterns of those who were not), that researchers could predict how strong the bond of two people were, solely based on their brain scan. 

The findings gave the insight that friends resemble not just in superficial terms, but also in the structure of their brains. It completely disregards the human perception that people become friends merely based on their similarity of interests, when in reality it is so much more. It’s about good chemistry.

The discovery suggests that the way friends pay attention and perceive the world around them may be similar. It seems as if the answer to why people tend to instantly click with someone and is able to have a smooth interaction as if they’ve known each other for years, may lie in this similarity.

The sudden interest in the nature, structure and evolution of friendship was what initiated the study. The eagerness, however, masked the evidence that solitary can be toxic to humans with side-effects comparable to those caused by obesity, unemployment and high blood pressure. Researchers are adamant on finding what exactly makes friendship so healthy and social isolation, on the other hand, so harmful. They’re on the road to finding stimulating evidences, even if they’re not definitive.

Carolyn Parkinson, a cognitive scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, along with her co-workers, has revealed that humans are automatically aware of who all will click in a social group. Just think about it. When we are introduced to a large group, we find ourselves initiating conversations with the ones we felt “most connected” to during the introductory phase.

Researchers want to know why some in a group are close friends and others merely exist. In order to predict who among a group is likely to become friends, researchers developed a test called “the friendship score”. Through this test, they were confident that they could predict friendship among people with accuracy equal to that of doctors predicting diseases, based on the genes. This went on to prove that genetic data, alone, is enough to make predictions on whether two people can be friends or not.

Scientific technology has heightened to such great lengths that the information our genetic data debunks is no longer limited to physiology or health, but extends to areas beyond one could think of.

So, here’s the real question. Do you think your brain structure would match with that of your friends? If ever given a chance, would you take the test to find out?

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