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Neuroscience of Viral News

February 28, 2017

What makes a news story go viral?



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

What makes a news story go viral? In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, University of Pennsylvania neuroscientist Emily Falk and her colleagues describe monitoring the brain activity of forty student volunteers as they scanned New York Times health articles and considered whether not to share them. They found that activity in three brain regions not only predicted whether the young volunteers would share the stories, but also which of the stories did, in fact, go viral.

EMILY FALK ( University of Pennsylvania ):

I think it’s surprising that you can take the brains of forty people from the greater Philadelphia area, and you can use their brain activity to predict what’s going to happen around the world.


The work will help scientists understand the social brain, and also aid efforts to spread important public health information. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon