The researchers had formed a control group of 46-men and 39-women. They used MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to scan the structure of their brains. The researchers then installed a specifically designed app on the smartphones of the control group. This app helped them track their Facebook usage. After this, they could know the frequency of their Facebook visits and time spent on the Facebook app.
People who spent more time on Facebook with higher frequency were found to have lesser grey matter in the reward-related or seeking area. Christian Montag of Ulm University and his colleagues were more interested in nucleus accumbens, area of brain which is located in center and controls reward circuitry. It’s closely related to dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters production.
Researchers found that people who used to open more Facebook tend to have reduced grey matter in nucleus accumbens. Montag said:
We were able to demonstrate that the nucleus accumbens, a central region of the SEEKING system — others call it the reward system — plays an important role in understanding Facebook usage on smartphones, In short, the lower the gray matter volume in this area, the higher Facebook usage/frequency could be observed.
One thing must be kept in mind that this particular research couldn’t predict the direction of the correlation. Does lesser grey matter in nucleus accumbens leads to more Facebook use or this is the other way around? This is yet to be decided based on more research. The study was cross-sectional, which lead to no determination of cause and effect. Montag said:
We do not know from the present data if low volumes in this area are a cause or consequence of Facebook usage. Therefore longitudinal studies are needed.
In today world, where we are surrounded by virtual societies, such research must be carried out to understand the deep effects.
Source: Behavioral Brain Research