According to a recent study, the unique patterns of your friend's brain may actually be very similar to yours when you are spending time together.


You may joke that you and your best friend are basically the same person, but the sheer coincidence of similar mannerisms and feeling like you know each other best may actually have something to do with brain activity. It seems that the activity patterns in your friends' brains could be very similar to yours based on how you perceive each other, according to new research published by a group of neurologists at the Ohio State University. The findings, which were published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Attitudes and Social Cognition, suggests that the same person's brain activity will rapidly change when they think of someone else in your friend group or in their lives, and may even replicate that person's brain activity as well. 

Friends drinking coffee together
Credit: SolStock / Getty Images

"It didn't have to be that way. We thought it was equally possible that you would think of me in the same way as I think of myself, but the way your brain encodes that information could be totally different," Dylan Wagner, an assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University and one of the study's co-authors, said in a press release. The teams' findings were discovered by launching a study based on 11 people who were all close friends in varying degrees; "They were a pretty tight-knit group from the same academic program who all spent time together at the university, as well as outside of it," Wagner said.

Researchers sat everyone down and used a round-robin experiment where the group of friends evaluated each other—as well as themselves—on a variety of personality traits. The experiment began with written questionnaires, but then the scientists asked them to answer similar questions while wearing a magnetic resonance imaging scanner, also known as an fMRI. The machine took images of each person's brain while they completed the task, which had them ranking their friends on many different traits, from loneliness to trustworthiness. Researchers then noticed that the activity in the prefrontal cortex—a part of the brain that is used to think about yourself as well as your loved ones—looked extremely similar between pairs of friends as they completed the evaluation, and would adapt in other pairings as well.

Wagner and other researchers admit that much more research is needed to understand the complex mental ties between us and our friends; this small piece of evidence doesn't explain all of the ins and outs of why you and a friend may be so similar. But it adds weight to a slowly forming theory that your friends truly know you best.


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