Scientists and writers love to compare brains to whatever the cool new technology is. Your brain is a steam engine! Your brain is a telephone! A calculator! A computer! And now, in 2011? Your brain is like Facebook, of course.
That's the comparison Carnegie Mellon neurology researcher Alison Barth hints at in a new paper about the behavior of neurons, anyway. Barth and her team say they've identified a small group of neurons responsible for a majority of brain work, including "conscious thought, language and spatial reasoning" (basically, all the good stuff). And what are those small, highly-active neurons like?
"It's like Facebook. Most of your friends don't post much—if at all," Barth said. "But, there is a small percentage of your friends on Facebook who update their status and page often. Those people are more likely to be connected to more friends, so while they're sharing more information, they're also receiving more information from their expanded network, which also includes other more active participants."
There you have it: Your brain is Facebook (or, if you're stupid, MySpace), and your neurons are social networkers. I guess this makes Mark Zuckerberg... God?
Obviously, the arrival of a new metaphor for the brain probably says more about what technologies we consider important than about the way the brain works. (Not to mention the PR tactics of researchers hoping for a little press.) But it's interesting to note that Facebook—and "social networking" in general—has that kind of brain-metaphor cutting-edge currency.
Not to mention, of course, the potential for late-night dorm-room conversation. Because if our brains are, like, Facebook, you know? Than whose brain is Facebook? Right?