abstract Rogier B. Mars

Rogier B. Mars (Radboud University Nijmegen, NL, and University of Oxford, UK)

Connectivity of the social brain

For a social species like our own evolutionary success necessitates the ability to navigate a world full of conspecifics. Consequently, humans are extremely sensitive to information about others’ emotional states or intentions as provided by cues such as facial expression or body movement. It has been argued that the size and complexity of the human brain is a reflection of the difficulty in navigating our social environment. However, the relationship between areas in the human brain concerned with processing social information and similar areas in the non-human primate brain remains largely unexplored. A number of recent studies have searched for areas with similar response characteristics across species, but these studies have been largely hampered by the difficulty of engaging non-human primates in social tasks comparable to those of the human. In this talk, I will take a different approach to studying the organization of the human social brain and its similarity to the ‘monkey model’. I will use measures of structural and functional connectivity to compare these brains on anatomical criteria. This approach allows me to characterize the human social brain in more detail, but also provides some direct evidence for the relationship between human dorsal frontal and anterior cingulate cortex and its proposed homologues in the macaque brain. In addition, it suggests a relationship between one area in the human brain that is associated with uniquely human social abilities, the so-called temporoparietal junction area (TPJ), and areas in the macaque temporal cortex.