The Neuroscience Of Social Media: An Unofficial History

There's a novel article inward Trends inward Cognitive Sciences nigh how neuroscientists tin flaming contain social media into their inquiry on the neural correlates of social knowledge (Meshi et al., 2015). The authors outlined the sorts of social behaviors that tin flaming travel studied via participants' purpose of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.: (1) broadcasting information; (2) receiving feedback; (3) observing others' broadcasts; (4) providing feedback; (5) comparison self to others.

Meshi, Tamir, as well as Heekeren / Trends inward Cognitive Sciences (2015)

More broadly, these activities tap into processes as well as constructs similar emotional state, personality, social conformity, as well as how people grapple their self-presentation as well as social connections. You know, things that be IRL (this is an of import betoken to travel on inward hear for later).

The neural systems that mediate these phenomena, equally studied past times social cognitive neuroscience types, are the Mentalizing Network (in blueish below), the Self-Referential Network (red), as well as the Reward Network (green).

Fig. 2 (Meshi et al., 2015). Proposed Brain Networks Involved inward Social Media Use.  (i) mentalizing network: dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (DMPFC), temporoparietal junction (TPJ), anterior temporal lobe (ATL), inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), posterior cingulate cortex/precuneus (PCC). (ii) self-referential network: medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) as well as PCC. (iii) vantage network: ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC), ventral striatum (VS), ventral tegmental surface area (VTA). 

The article's publication was announced on social media:

I anticipated this twenty-four hr menstruation inward 2009, when I wrote several satirical articles nigh the Twitter use:
It was leap to happen. Some neuroimaging lab volition send an actual fMRI experiment to examine the so-called "Neural Correlates of Twitter" -- as well as hence why non write a preemptive spider web log post to study on the predicted results from such a study, earlier anyone tin flaming let on the actual findings?

Here are the weather I proposed, as well as the predicted results (a percentage of the original post is reproduced below).

Influenza A virus subtype H5N1 low-level baseline status (viewing "+") as well as an active baseline status (reading the populace timeline [public timeline no longer exists] of random tweets from strangers) volition travel compared to iii active conditions:

(1) Celebrity Fluff

(2) Social Media Marketing Drivel

(3) Friends on your Following List

... The hemodynamic reply business office to the active command status volition travel compared to those from Conditions 1-3 above. Contrasts betwixt each of these weather as well as the low-level baseline volition also travel performed.

The major predicted results are equally follows:
 nigh how neuroscientists tin flaming contain social media into their inquiry on the neural  The Neuroscience of Social Media: An Unofficial History
Fig. 2A. (Mitchell et al., 2006). Influenza A virus subtype H5N1 part of ventral mPFC showed greater activation during judgments of the target to whom participants considered themselves to travel to a greater extent than similar.

  • Reading the flow of Celebrity Fluff volition activate the frontal optic fields to a much greater extent than the command condition, equally the participants volition travel engaged inward rolling their eyes inward reply to the inane banter.
 nigh how neuroscientists tin flaming contain social media into their inquiry on the neural  The Neuroscience of Social Media: An Unofficial History
Figure from Paul Pietsch, Ph.D. The frontal optic fields are inward a stamp-sized zone at the posterior terminate of the middle frontal gyri. 

  • Reading the flow of Social Media Marketing Drivel volition revenue enhancement the neural circuits involved inward generating a feeling of disgust, including the anterior insula, ventrolateral prefrontal cortex-temporal pole, as well as putamen-globus pallidus (Mataix-Cols et al., 2008)
 nigh how neuroscientists tin flaming contain social media into their inquiry on the neural  The Neuroscience of Social Media: An Unofficial History
Fig. 1A (Jabbi et al., 2008). Coronal patch (y = 18) showing the place of the ROI (white) previously shown to travel involved inward the experience as well as observation of disgust.

In conclusion, nosotros predict that the observed patterns of encephalon action volition travel subject on the nature of the Twitter textile beingness read. These distinct neural networks are expected to reverberate the cognitive, emotional, as well as visceral processes underlying the quickly changing content of digital media, which ultimately results inward "rewiring" of the brain.

Back to the acquaint post...

Not likewise far off, eh?

Although the TICS patch mentioned that vii social media neuroscience articles accept been published to date1 (none quite similar that one), it didn't review them. Bloggers accept covered some of these (e.g., More Friends on Facebook Does NOT Equal a Larger Amygdala) as well as related topics similar social media purpose as well as personality, Facebook neuromarketing, metaphorical Facebook cells, Twitter psychosis (interview), “textmania, as well as the lack of testify that social network sites “unsupported scaremongering:

Social networking websites are causing alarming changes inward the brains of immature users, an eminent scientist has warned.

Sites such equally Facebook, Twitter as well as Bebo are said to shorten attending spans, encourage instant gratification as well as brand immature people to a greater extent than self-centred.

The claims from neuroscientist Susan Greenfield volition brand disturbing reading for the millions whose social lives depend on logging on to their favourite websites each day.

Susan Greenfield, Susan Greenfield

No history of social media neuroscience is consummate without the unsubstantiated claims of Baroness Susan Greenfield an extremely prominent British neuroscientist, author, as well as broadcaster: 'My fear is that these technologies are infantilising the encephalon into the land of minor children who are attracted past times buzzing noises as well as brilliant lights, who accept a minor attending bridge as well as who alive for the moment.'  Although she declares the dangers of digital Mind Change far as well as wide, such statements are non backed past times careful peer reviewed studies.

Susan Greenfield: I am non some greedy harridan

She is concerned that those who alive only inward the present, online, don’t allow their malleable brains to prepare properly. “It’s non going to destroy the planet but is it going to travel a planet worth living inward if you lot accept a charge of breezy people who teach around maxim yaka-wow. Is that the social club nosotros want?”

Influenza A virus subtype H5N1 squad of British psychologists, neuroscientists, bloggers, as well as scientific discipline writers accept been trying for ages to rebut the Baroness quest her to hit reliable testify for her dire assertions (see Appendix). 

The neuroscience of social media isn't only emerging. It's been alongside us for over 10 years.


1 One of these vii references is non a peer-reviewed paper, it's an abstract for a conference that's starting inward a few days. I found it here: Facebook Network Structure as well as Brain Reactivity to Social Exclusion.

And at that topographic point are genuinely to a greater extent than publications than that. One was covered inward a post past times Mo Costandi, Susan Greenfield's Dopamine Disaster Neuroskeptic

Is the meshing changing our brains? BPS Research Digest (Christian Jarrett)

An opened upward alphabetic quality to Baroness Susan Greenfield BishopBlog (Dorothy Bishop)

exclusively reveal for about the fifth time. Symptoms include self-obsession, brusk attending spans as well as a childlike wishing for constant feedback, according to a 'top scientist' alongside no tape of published inquiry on the issue.
. . . 

The scientist believes that purpose of the meshing – as well as estimator games – could 'rewire' the brain, causing neurons to found novel connections as well as pathways. "Rewiring itself is something that the encephalon does naturally all the time," the professor said, "but the phrase 'rewiring the brain' sounds genuinely dramatic as well as chilling, as well as hence I similar to purpose it to teach far appear similar I'm talking nigh a profound as well as unnatural change, fifty-fifty though it isn't."


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