More Social Connections Means More Brain Connections

Posted on April 4, 2008. Filed under: wellbeing | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Are you finding that your memory not as good as it used to be?

Is maths a stumbling block?

Are you finding it difficult to learn something new?

Go out and get some friends! Yes, research tells us that the more social connections you have and the more you interact with others the more brain connections you will make and the more plasticity you brain will retain. Humans are social animals and we need to remember that in this age of technology, just look at the success of social media. However, this is not the same as getting out and being social.

Mental fitness seems to depend on a large part on being connected with other people. For instance people with low social support seem to be more prone to mental illness (McGuire & Raleigh, 1986). In 2007, Gladstone and colleagues studied 218 patients with major depression and found out that low social support, especially coming from the family, was associated with chronic depression.

Merely imagining loneliness can negatively affect our behavior…

Baumeister et al. (2005) showed that compared to people who were not told anything, people who were told that they would likely end up alone in life:

– were less able to make themselves consume a healthy but bad-tasting beverage
– quit faster in trying to solve hard and frustrating puzzles.
Telling people that their future would be marred by a tendency to be accident prone (injuries and the like) did not affect their behavior. This shows how much social contact is crucial for human beings!

A new study, published in 2008 by Ybarra and his colleagues went even further by showing that socializing and mental exercises have very similar effects in terms of improving brain functions!

Even after controlling for physical health and daily activity levels, they found that the more socially engaged people were, the higher their cognitive performance.

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