MGH Logo The amygdale, a small almond shaped structure deep within the temporal lobe appears more beneficial than previously thought. A groundbreaking study asserts that structure of the amygdale leads to a rich and varied social life. The volume of the amygdale may not be associated with other social variables in the life of humans like life support or social satisfaction.

Investigators carried out an exploratory analysis of all the subcortical structures within the brain and were unable to gauge any strong evidence of a similar link between any other subcortical structure and the social life of humans. This relation of amygdala size and social network size as well as complexity was registered not only among older men and women, but also in younger individuals. No probable link between size of other brain structures and social network size along with complexity was noted.

“We know that primates who live in larger social groups have a larger amygdala, even when controlling for overall brain size and body size. We considered a single primate species, humans, and found that the amygdala volume positively correlated with the size and complexity of social networks in adult humans,” shared Lisa Feldman Barrett, PhD, of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program, a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Northeastern University and lead author of the study.

A total of 58 participants were made to fill in standard questionnaires asking about the size and the complexity of their social networks. With the help of answers received, experts were able to calculate the total number of regular social contacts that each participant maintained. Also the number of different groups to which these contacts belonged was ascertained. Study subjects belonging to the age group of 19 to 83 years underwent a magnetic resonance imaging brain scan for collecting information about the structure of various brain structures, including the volume of the amygdala. It was concluded that amygdale determines complex social life among humans and that amygdale along with other brain regions is involved in social behavior.

The study is published in Nature Neuroscience.