Researchers found that self-sharing with friends releases chemicals that control the reward and pleasure centers
Thu, 18 Jul 2013 13:11 UTC
Researchers from Harvard University Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab wanted to find out why people like the sound of their own voice so much and if it was linked to the parts of their brain associated with pleasure and reward.
After conducting tests using brain scanning technology they found that when people talk about themselves it triggers the same chemical reaction they experience during sex and this motivates them to share personal information more regularly.
The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to carry out the tests.
This imaging tool can identify changes in the level of blood flow to certain parts of the brain when presented with certain stimuli.
During the fMRI experiment, researchers asked 195 people to talk about themselves, including their own opinions and personality traits.
The researchers measured the blood flow levels in the participant's brains during both discussions and used them to directly compare differences in neural activity between the two.
When participants talked about themselves, the researchers discovered an increase in activity to the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), generally linked with self-related thought.
And for the first time they noticed a change in activity in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) and the ventral tegmental area (VTA).
Both parts of these brain are linked with releasing dopamine.
Dopamine is the chemical that controls the brain's reward and pleasure systems.
These areas of the brain have previously been linked to the pleasure felt during sex, when taking cocaine or eating sweet and flavourful food, for example.
The researchers conclude that the findings prove talking about yourself may be 'inherently pleasurable'.
This makes people want to seek out these pleasurable feelings, which motivates them to talk about themselves more regularly.
As in the first study, participants were asked questions about themselves and about others.
This time they were told their responses would be shared with the people they had brought with them or kept private.
Although the self-focused answers resulted in an increase in brain activity again, those which were shared created a higher level of activity than those that were kept private.
This showed that talking about yourself is pleasurable, but talking about yourself to someone else increases this pleasure.
Commenting on the findings, psychology PHD Adrian Ward said: 'You may like to talk about yourself simply because it feels good - because self-disclosure produces a burst of activity in neural regions associated with pleasure, motivation, and reward.
'But, in this case, feeling good may be no more than a means to an end - it may be the immediate reward that jump-starts a cycle of self-sharing, ultimately leading to wide varieties of long-term benefits.'