Brain size affects ability to maintain friendships

The ability of how well a person is able to maintain friendships may be partly dependent on their brain size. This is the suggestion of new research published in the Royal Society's Proceedings B, which revealed the orbital prefrontal cortex is bigger in those with a larger number of pals.

Carried out as part of the British Academy Centenary Lucy to Language project, the study found that cognitive skills may need to be employed to make and keep a number of friends. As such, individuals are required to understand what another person is thinking, which then enables the pair to hold a conversation.

Professor Robin Dunbar of the University of Oxford's Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology said: "Individuals who had more friends did better on mentalising tasks and had more neural volume in the orbital frontal cortex, the part of the forebrain immediately above the eyes."

Dr Joanna Iddon, a Chartered Psychologist, said: "These findings certainly reflect existing literature on social cognition and emotional processing.

"It would be interesting to carry out similar research to compare the relative size of the orbital frontal cortex in individuals with autistic spectum disorders, who have difficulties with mentalising tasks and social interaction.

"On the other hand, this type of functioning is extremely complex and the interpretation is almost certainly likely to be more complex than simply down to size differential."