Berlin:How addicted you are to Facebook maybe determined by how a certain part of your brain works, afirst-of-its-kind study suggests.
A person’s intensity of Facebook use can be predicted byactivity in the nucleus accumbens, a reward-related area ofthe brain, researchers at Freie Universitat Berlin, said.
Researchers conducted this first ever study to relatebrain activity (functional MRI) to social media use.The researchers focused on the nucleus accumbens, a smallbut critical structure located deep in the center of thebrain, because previous research has shown that rewards -including food, money, sex, and gains in reputation – are
processed in this region.
“As human beings, we evolved to care about ourreputation. In today’s world, one way we’re able to manage ourreputation is by using social media websites like Facebook,”said Dar Meshi, lead author of the study.
Facebook, with 1.2 billion monthly active users, was usedin the study because interactions on the website are carriedout in view of the user’s friends or public and can affecttheir reputation, researchers said.
For example, Facebook consists of users “liking” postedinformation. This approval is positive social feedback, andcan be considered related to their reputation.
All 31 participants completed the Facebook IntensityScale to determine how many friends each participant had, howmany minutes they each spent on Facebook, and generalthoughts. The participants were selected to vary widely intheir Facebook Intensity Scale scores.
The subjects participated in a video interview. Next, thebrain activity of the subjects was recorded, by using
functional magnetic resonance imaging, in differentsituations.
In the scanner, subjects were told whether people whosupposedly viewed the video interview thought highly of them,and subjects also found out whether people thought highly ofanother person. They also performed a card task to win money.
Results showed that participants who received positivefeedback about themselves produced stronger activation of thenucleus accumbens than when they saw the positive feedbackthat another person received.
The strength of this difference corresponded toparticipants’ reported intensity of Facebook use. But thenucleus accumbens response to monetary reward did not predictFacebook use.
“Our study reveals that the processing of social gains inreputation in the left nucleus accumbens predicts the
intensity of Facebook use across individuals,” said Meshi.