Did You Know Your Brain is Wired to be Social?

Research indicates that the stronger your social connections the healthier and longer you may live.   Scientific studies show that your brain is not just a passive device, disconnected from other brains, alone in the world.  You are literally on the same wave-length with people in your life.

How Your Brain Wiring Drives Social Interactions

Credit: agsandrew/Shutterstock

Here are excerpts from two interesting studies:

“On 11 days over the course of one semester, researchers hooked up all 12 of the students in a biology class to portable devices called electroencephalograms (EEGs) that measured their brain waves.”

The more synced up a student’s brain waves were with the brain waves of the rest of the students in the class, the more likely that person was to say that he or she enjoyed the class that day. For example, when the researchers analyzed brain waves called alpha waves, they found that students’ waves were more likely to rise and fall at the same time as other students’ waves when they were highly engaged in the class

Likewise, when a student’s brain waves were less synced with those of the rest of the class, the student was less likely to say that he or she was engaged.

“How well our brain waves sync up with those of another person appears to be a good predictor of how well we get along and how engaged we are,” lead study author Suzanne Dikker, a psychology research scientist at New York University”. 

Monkey See, Monkey Sync

“New tools which involve electrodes implanted into the brains of animals can probe the brains of living animals while they are engaged in social interactions, providing insights into how the brain controls certain behaviors.”

These tools have also revealed that brains likely don’t operate in isolation. There is biological evidence that two minds really can be on the same wavelength.

“What could be more social than brains acting in sync? Similar brain activity may be fundamental for how animals, including humans, interact to form social bonds, according to Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, a professor of neuroscience at Duke University School of Medicine in North Carolina.”

“Nicolelis’ group built an experiment in which one monkey drives a vehicle to get a fruit reward while another monkey watches. Each time the driver monkey gets a fruit reward, the spectator monkey gets one, too. So they are linked, Nicolelis said during the news conference.”

“To our shock, what we found is that as these animals are interacting … both brains are highly synchronized,” Nicolelis said. “We have, in fact, in some instances, 60 percent of [the firing of neurons] in the motor cortexes of both monkeys [happening] precisely the same time.”

The synchronicity became more precise as the monkey got closer to the fruit reward or, as shown during a second experiment in the study, as the spectator monkey helped control the vehicle remotely, Nicolelis said. The finding suggests that the optimal performance of social tasks, such as gathering food, requires synchronization of brain activity across the brains of all subjects involved — in other words, with everyone being on the same wavelength.

Conversely, Nicolelis said that some antisocial neurological disorders, such as autism, may result in an inability to establish such interbrain synchronization. He said he hopes to test this in his lab with human subjects.

“We’re beginning to see a striking aspect of the brain … that brains are wired for social interactions,” said Dr. Robert Green, a professor of neuroscience and psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. 


Do you wonder if your brain syncs up with animals too?




How to teach an old dog new tricks – Cognitive Science of Habits

Research shows our brains are plastic, moldable and easy to please and despite sayings to the contrary, you can, in fact, teach an old dog (or cat) new tricks. But you have to give your brain a reason to get started.  

Here are excerpts from the article:

On the Mind: How Habits Work and How to Make Them

“Our brains like treats, MRI scans are clear about that. The reward pathway involves several parts of the brain, including areas such as the prefrontal cortex. Food, water, sex and pleasurable activity light up these areas and travel around the brain. If you want to build a habit, make it fun.

“Overall, recent brain scans show that certain areas of the brain light up when a new behavior is started, and the most effective way to keep the areas lit and happy is through rewards. Otherwise, we’re programmed to be lazy and efficient.”


“In the past year, neuroscientists and psychologists have teamed up to study habit learning and how the brain reacts to new behaviors. They’ve found that some neurons, the cells that fire information across our brain and tell us what to do, are linked to motivation, reward association and habit learning.

Rewarding Right Behavior by Peggy

“When we like a new action, our brain pumps out feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, and we’re more likely to repeat the action to get the same pleasurable response.”

“Just like Pavlov’s dog, if we can motivate ourselves to repeat an action with a reward several times, we can potentially make it stick. And if we lump two or three of those habits together, they can cascade in the brain and lead to the likelihood of sticking with several good habits at once. Hey, even monkeys can learn how to build habits through repetition without much instruction, Brown University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers reported.”

Key Takeaways

1.  Make a Plan for 2 months . . . or longer!

Figure out what works for you, and don’t get discouraged by what seems to be common knowledge. Pop culture has promulgated the idea that it only takes 21 days, or 3 weeks, to form a new habit, but research shows that, depending on the person and habit, changes can take two months or longer.

“To figure out which cravings are driving particular habits, it’s useful to experiment with different rewards,” which may take days or weeks, Charles Duhigg writes in The Power of Habit. “During that period, you shouldn’t feel any pressure to make a real change … think of yourself as a scientist in the data collection stage.”

2.  Be Realistic

Don’t set yourself up for failure or place your expectations too high.

“ . . .   it’s common for people to set their sights cripplingly high in a moment of ambition, only to feel crushed when they fail to live up to those unrealistic goals.”

“That crushed feeling sends negative pulses rushing through your neurons, which destroys good associations with the habits you’re building. Try the smallest steps possible . . .  to feel happy about the smallest success you can accomplish.”

3.  Reward Yourself

“If you want to be motivated, you have to do something you enjoy and feel comfortable doing.”

Read entire article: Habits and How to Make Them