Having a lot of Facebook friends may be more than a sign of your online social popularity: A new study suggests it could also be telling of the size of certain brain regions, as well as the number of real-life friends that you have.
Researchers from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging and the University College London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience found that people who have more Facebook friends AND real-life friends also tend to have more grey matter in the amygdala, a brain region linked with memory processing and emotional responses.
They also found that the more "Facebook friends" a person has, the more real-life friends they have, too.
"Our study will help us begin to understand how our interactions with the world are mediated through social networks," study researcher Professor Geraint Rees said in a statement. "This should allow us to start asking intelligent questions about the relationship between the Internet and the brain -– scientific questions, not political ones."
The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Researchers found this link by examining brain scans of 125 college students (all of whom were considered active Facebook users), as well as looking at their friend networks both online and in real life. They then replicated their findings with another group of 40 college students.
Researchers also found that the size of other brain regions -- the right superior temporal sulcus, the left middle temporal gyrus and the right etorhinal cortex -- seemed to be associated with the number of Facebook friends a person has, but not with the number of real-life friends a person has.
Even though this study found that people with a lot of Facebook friends also tend to have a lot of real-life friends, past research shows that the number of Facebook friends who we actually interact with is actually proportionally small, the U.K.'s Telegraph reported.
The Telegraph reported:
"The interesting thing is that you can have 1,500 friends but when you actually look at traffic on sites, you see people maintain the same inner circle of around 150 people that we observe in the real world," he (study researcher Robin Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary anthropology at Oxford University) told The Sunday Times.