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The “Twitterbrain” Is Just Like The Human Brain… And Retweets Are Synapses?

A University of Cambridge professor recently stunned his audience by showing how Twitter is just like the human brain. Performing a live Twitter experiment, he was able to show how the interconnectivity of hashtags in tweets was just like the human brain network.

Ed Bullimore, professor at the University of Cambridge, prefers to view the brain as a network, a complex system of mathematical equations, rather than a biological entity. In this way, the brain is similar to computer chips or the stock market… or Twitter.

To illustrate the similarities between our brains and Twitter, he asked members of the audience to tweet during his talk about concepts he discussed, using the hashtag #csftwitterbrain. When his lecture was finished, he used a software program to visually represent the hashtagged tweets.

Each of the colored nodes refer to a different topic, and they’re connected, I assume, by retweets. Compare this image of the “Twitterbrain” to the below video showing the human brain network:

Here, each node represents a different brain region, and pairs of nodes are linked if the activity of those two nodes is found to sync often.

After showing the two images, Bullimore explained how the “Twitterbrain” and the human brain are similar, and where the differences come in:

“We found that the #twitterbrain network was somewhat like the brain network in being small-world and modular with highly connected hub nodes; however the brain network was more clustered and less efficient than the twitter network. So at first sight there were some points in common and some points of difference between these two information processing networks.”

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