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Structure In Brain Linked To Varied Social Life 96

An anonymous reader writes "Scientists have discovered that the amygdala, a small, almond-shaped structure deep within the temporal lobe, is important to a rich and varied social life among humans. The finding was published this week in a new study in Nature Neuroscience and is similar to previous findings in other primate species, which compared the size and complexity of social groups across those species."
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Structure In Brain Linked To Varied Social Life

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  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Monday December 27, 2010 @03:48AM (#34674502)

    I can't help but be struck by the seemingly limited amount of spatial and mathematical reasoning capabilities of many who have exceptional social intelligence. In fact, there seems to be an inverse relationship between the two traits. The evidence seems enough to even posit that there is a maximal beyond which it is impossible to expand new intelligence and thus the capacity must be split between various capabilities.

    In some, the trait of sociability takes center stage whereas in others it is mathematical genius. Likewise, we see an exceptional ability of females to maximize their social circles. To whit, the mental capabilities of females and males being the same, it would seem that females would be more likely to develop large social circles and thrive within this mentally untaxing environment while males would thrive in problem solving and mental exercises requiring strenuous mental effort (such as in the hard sciences).

    Taking this further, it also explains the apparent inability of many computer engineers to interact in normal social circles. With much of their brain showing traits of strong mathematical acuity, their amygdala itself is underdeveloped. Perhaps it is this unbalance that is the root cause of "geekiness".

    Naturally, this is not the final word on all this, but it is an interesting step towards a more full biological understanding of character and intelligences.

  • training (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Monday December 27, 2010 @03:55AM (#34674524) Homepage Journal

    My personal experience indicates that like so many things, social life is a matter of training, experience and desire. The people who have one actually make the effort and put the time into it, and unsurprisingly, get results. I'm fairly certain that geeks simply consider other things more important. I know if I want to, I can have a party every week and build up a good amount of friends. I know because I've been there, done it, and forgot to get a T-Shirt. But most of the time I simply don't care enough.

    A very good (female) friend said not too long ago that keeping her social life up and running is essentially her 2nd full-time job.

    Certainly brain structures make it easier for some people. Some people are just naturals, they make friends with the same ease I write a simple web-app. Evolution is great that way, giving some of us these talents and others those. But I'm afraid there will be way too many cheap cop-outs in the comments. "Ah that is why I have no friends." - no, lazybag. It is not that simple.

  • Re:training (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mangu ( 126918 ) on Monday December 27, 2010 @05:10AM (#34674722)

    My personal experience indicates that like so many things, social life is a matter of training, experience and desire.

    Training and experience, yes, but the real question is why do you have that desire?

    Think of an obvious analogy, a castrated animal has no desire for sex. Perhaps the amygdala produces some hormone that causes desire for social interaction. Social training and experience would be the result of that.

    Mathematical ability is the same way, one needs training, experience, and desire to become good at math. As a matter of fact, one needs these three elements to become good at *anything*. So, what's the element that causes one to have desire to be good at one field rather than another?

  • Re:so that's it... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Psychotria ( 953670 ) on Monday December 27, 2010 @05:49AM (#34674814)

    I've often wondered about this. My IQ is high (this is relevant, I'm not just saying it for the sake of it) but in primary school (before year 8 in Australia) I had heaps of friends. From about year 9 in school until at least half way through year 12 (the final year in Australia) I was seriously bullied. In the final half of year 12 at school I beefed up a lot and kicked the shit out of a few of the bullies and they stopped attacking me. But my point is that for at least 3.5 years I was under constant stress and anxiety. Now I am in adulthood and I look back on my working career I can see quite clearly that although all my grades and my intellect is fine that I have under-performed mainly due to social ineptitude and constant anxiety and stress which, for the most part, has no underlying work conditions to provoke such a state. I wonder if during those traumatic years my amygdala went through some change. I wonder if I have PTSD!

  • by ACDChook ( 665413 ) on Monday December 27, 2010 @06:06AM (#34674856)
    Children with autism have been found to have enlarged amygdalas, and I wouldn't exactly call them social butterflies.
  • by damaged_sectors ( 1690438 ) on Monday December 27, 2010 @07:31AM (#34675094)

    I suspect it's a matter of time tradeoffs. People who like to bully devote a certain amount of time developing those skills - time others devote to developing other skills.

    Most of the plus 140 IQ (Stanford Binet) people I know had poor social skills until their thirties - they studied in class, and did homework while their classmates didn't.

    I've an idea that things might have been different if they hadn't been alienated in their early schooling years.

    Yes - I was one of them. By Form 4 (Year something these days) most of the people I spent my time around had more common ground with me and things changed. Though Slashdot posters will disagree - these days my social skills exceed those of my former school mates. I still bump into them - they don't travel much, they still associate with the same small group of people, most have divorced, and all of them speak only one language.

    I have no regrets or bitterness about those early years - I often give work to some of my former bullies. I long since developed the skills to be happy and comfortable in any social situation (and learnt to fight). Unlike those that developed their social skills early - my social group includes a large range of different people, age groups, ethnicity, income, opinions. From bikers to bankers. From adversity comes flexibility and strength.

    So Psycotria, our schooling was fucked - but have a look at where your bullies are now... do you really want to be like them? Chances are they now want to be like you.

"Call immediately. Time is running out. We both need to do something monstrous before we die." -- Message from Ralph Steadman to Hunter Thompson