New research shows that close friends have similar brain activity, shedding light on why surrounding yourself with your favorite people can be so rewarding — and good for your health.
A recent study published in the journal Nature Communications found that close friends have similar brain activity with respect to how they perceive and respond to the world. In other words, you and your BFF really are like twinsies!
The Dartmouth College researchers started out by asking 279 students to fill out a survey about friendship. Then they examined the brain activity of 42 of the students as they watched old videos, including clips from “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and CNN’s “Crossfire” as well as footage of an astronaut at a space station and a wedding ceremony.
The MRI scans revealed that the tighter a person’s relationship with another person, the more similar their brain activity. In other words, the same regions of their brains, whether associated with motivation, attention or judgement, lit up at the same time.
In fact, the results were so uncanny that the researchers were able to predict who were close friends based on their brain activity. What’s more, the results remained significant even when controlling for things that usually scream “different,” like age, gender, nationality and ethnicity.
Dartmouth business professor Adam Kleinbaum, who co-authored the study, tells Business Insider that it’s not totally clear whether people are seeking out friends who are already similar to them or if friends become alike over time. “We think both are happening,” he says.
Either way, the researchers believe that a relationship like this “may be rewarding because it reinforces one’s own values, opinions and interests,” they write in their paper.
These findings may shed some light on why social connections are good not only for your mental well-being, but for your physical health as well. A review of four studies published in 2016 revealed that each social connection you have benefits for your health, positively impacting factors such as your body mass index (BMI), inflammation, abdominal weight and blood pressure.
And another review found that having an active and thriving social life reduced a person’s risk of mortality by 50 percent — that’s on par with quitting smoking and almost twice as beneficial as regularly hitting the gym.
So if you’ve been too busy with your solo self-care routine to hang out with your favorite people, take these findings as all the excuse you need to call up a friend and schedule a sweat session together or catch up on “Queer Eye” over a bowl of popcorn for two.
Read more: 5 Times Celebrities Reminded Us How Important Workout Buddies Are