As the Spice Girls once sang ‘friendship never ends’ there really is nothing quite as special as a true friend.
It has often been said that friends are on the same wavelength when they finish each other’s sentences, like the same television shows and agree on what makes for a perfect night out.
Now a team of scientists have proven the ‘wavelength’ saying to be true because friends’ brains do indeed work in the same way.
In a new scientific study titled Similar Neural Responses Predict Friendship recently published in the Nature Communications journal, MRI scans show that the brainwaves of close friends match when they watch video clips of a wide variety of subjects.
The team of scientists behind the study explored how similarly friends’ brains reacted when they presented them with different types of information.
It turns out the findings line up with an ancient Greek theory known as ‘homophily’ which basically means people tend to bond with those they deem similar.
The study grouped together 279 graduate students from Dartmouth College and built a social network chart based on the students’ social ties.
42 of these students were then show various video clips that ranged from debates to music videos to comedy and scenes from documentaries.
While watching these clips the students’ brain activity was monitored by a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner.
By measuring how synchronised the neural activity was, the scientists could calculate just how close the friendship was.
So good friends had the most similar neural patterns with friends of friends being less alike.
Lead author Carolyn Parkinson, who was a postdoctoral fellow in psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth at the time of the study, spoke to Science Daily about the study:
Neural responses to dynamic, naturalistic stimuli, like videos, can give us a window into people’s unconstrained, spontaneous thought processes as they unfold. Our results suggest that friends process the world around them in exceptionally similar ways.
Senior author Thalia Wheatley, an associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth, explained the importance of the study adding:
We are a social species and live our lives connected to everybody else. If we want to understand how the human brain works, then we need to understand how brains work in combination — how minds shape each other.
Although the study does confirm that you and your bestie share similar thoughts and feelings, the scientists admit there is still more research to be done to explain exactly how these identical patterns are formed.
The question left to be answered is do we become friends with people because we know they are similar to us or do we naturally seek people out who just happen to be like us?
Or do we become similar because of the amount of time we spend together?
Emily Murray is a journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA in English Literature and History before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. Emily has previously worked for the BBC, ITV and Trinity Mirror. When Emily isn’t writing about topics including mental health and entertainment, you can find her at the cinema which is her second home.