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Jun 24 2010

Twitter affects brain chemistry the same as love

Why is Twitter so addictive and appealing? It seems the answer may be more scientific than one would have guessed. An experiment by an industrious blogger has found that sending a tweet increases oxytocin and decreases stress hormone levels in the brain. This is similar to the reaction a person has when being in love.

I would love to see this investigated on a larger scale. Is this guy an anomoly, or is this a common experience for tweeters? How does reading other tweets affect us? Are the effects magnified when someone replies to us? Are the thousands of tweets I’ve sent in the last year considered drug abuse?

Hop to it, NIH! Fund this essential research.

12 comments

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  1. 1
    BastardSheep

    I still want to know what, if anything, affects ones brain chemistry in a similar way to #nopants.

  2. 2
    Wayne Colvin

    Computer Love http://youtu.be/WcGfxTdSACM

  3. 3
    Rev. Ouabache

    I can stop anytime, I swear. Just one more Tweet to get me by.

  4. 4
    Jamey

    I think this just proves that love is highly overrated, possibly pathological. That is, the head over heels euphoric type love. Romantic love that does not resemble Twitter induced euphoria is still Ok in my opinion.

  5. 5
    Kaleberg

    Yeah, but oxytocin can also increase group aggression.

  6. 6
    Violeta Norquist

    There are some studies involving facebook or any other social networks by some harvard scientists, a lot other studies are made about it but in a marketing approach (though they do use some science in it). Here’s a link to Nicholas A. Christakis (one of the guys involved): http://christakis.med.harvard…. It doesn’t say much (you have to buy a book) but it might be interesting. Talks about how social networking affects in a way your brain.

  7. 7
    Rob

    There was a study two or three years ago that showed that the reason teenage girls send text messages so much is that it produces a euphoria in them second only to orgasm. Perhaps these studies are related.

  8. 8
    Patrick Neal Russell Julius

    See, this is why I hate pop neuroscience. It distracts us with the brain. http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl…What, Twittering triggers oxytocin release—in other words, it FEELS GOOD?Next you’ll tell me that video games trigger dopamine release—you mean they are ADDICTIVE?And sappy movies result in a downregulation of serotonin—you mean they are SAD?We are our brains. Of COURSE things that feel good will involve the release of hormones and neurotransmitters associated with things that feel good; that’s what FEELING GOOD is.Moreover, what this study does NOT explain is WHY Twittering feels good in the first place—WHY it triggers that oxytocin high. THAT is an interesting question; it gets into the evolutionary psychology of sociality, affection, friendship, and lots of other things. But MRI research can’t tell you those things; you have to do much more thorough, subtle research.

  9. 9
    Patrick Neal Russell Julius

    I’m sure it’s the same phenomenon. But again, WHY? Why is social media technology so appealing? What does this say about the way human psychology is structured?Also, I’m dubious of any claims of “second only to an orgasm”; I’ve heard that chocolate, foot rubs, nursing a baby (that one I almost believe), Twittering, kissing, and lots of other things are “second only to an orgasm”. So are they all precisely tied—or might it just be hot air?

  10. 10
    Patrick Neal Russell Julius

    Are you sure? I’ve read that vasopressin early in development can increase aggression; but I’ve never heard that for oxytocin.

  11. 11
    Patrick Neal Russell Julius

    That would be dopamine, not oxytocin. Admittedly it may be both.

  12. 12
    Patrick Neal Russell Julius

    Honestly I think a well-designed and well-analyzed survey is often far more scientifically useful than any but the best neuroimaging study. But neuroimaging is sexy right now, and surveys have never gotten the respect they deserve…

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