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The Sociable Brain

December 21, 2016

Do social butterflies and wallflowers have different brain structures?


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The sociable brain. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Does the idea of attending a party this holiday season make you want to curl up and hide? According to Cardiff University social neuroscientist Bonni Crawford, how you feel about social situations could affect your brain structure. At the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, she reported that people who look forward to socializing have more grey matter in a brain area involved in emotional regulation, but less in their brain’s fear center – or amygdala.

BONNI CRAWFORD (Cardiff University):

The higher your expectancies of social pleasure, the stronger your emotion regulation abilities in your medial prefrontal cortex; and the smaller your amygdala.


But those who feel threatened by social interactions have more grey matter in both the amygdala and a brain region that regulates vigilance. The good news is that these areas of the brain are flexible, and respond well to emotion regulation training to decrease social distress. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard