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Viewing ambiguity of social interactions increases coupling between frontal and temporal nodes of the social brain
AINSWORTH, M., Sallet, J., Joly, O., Kyriazis, D., KRIEGESKORTE, N., DUNCAN, J.D., Schüffelgen, U., Rushworth, M., BELL, A.H.
The Journal of Neuroscience, 41(28), 6070-6086
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Social behaviour is coordinated by a network of brain regions, including those involved in the perception of social stimuli and those involved in complex functions like inferring perceptual and mental states and controlling social interactions. The properties and function of many of these regions in isolation is relatively well-understood, but less is known about how these regions interact whilst processing dynamic social interactions. To investigate whether the functional connectivity between brain regions is modulated by social context, we collected functional MRI (fMRI) data from male monkeys (Macaca mulatta) viewing videos of social interactions labelled as "affiliative", "aggressive", or "ambiguous". We show activation related to the perception of social interactions along both banks of the superior temporal sulcus, parietal cortex, medial and lateral frontal cortex, and the caudate nucleus. Within this network, we show that fronto-temporal functional connectivity is significantly modulated by social context. Crucially, we link the observation of specific behaviours to changes in functional connectivity within our network. Viewing aggressive behaviour was associated with a limited increase in temporo-temporal and a weak increase in cingulate-temporal connectivity. By contrast, viewing interactions where the outcome was uncertain was associated with a pronounced increase in temporo-temporal, and cingulate-temporal functional connectivity. We hypothesise that this widespread network synchronisation occurs when cingulate and temporal areas coordinate their activity when more difficult social inferences are being made.