Social Cognitive Neuroscience

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What is Social Cognitive Neuroscience
A field of study that uses methods of cognitive neuroscience to address questions traditionally posed by social psychology
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The kinds of approaches involved in SCN
developmental, clinical, social psychology, cognitive neuroscience, neuroeconomics, biology, evolutionary antropology, philosophy
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Definitive definition
An attempt to understand and explain, using the methods and theories of neuroscience, how the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others
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Describe the different levels at which we can understand social behaviour
Culture, soiciety and personal - traditionally social psychology. Brain, cellular, and molecular - traditionally neuroscience
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Why is SCN important?
Just looking at the brain misses the importance of social interactions which are vital and form a huge part of our experiences and development.
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Evidence that we rely of real life people
Kuhl, 2003. American babies learn from real people, not TV.
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What is the social brain hypothesis?
Brain volume increases with group size- large brains to allow meeting of computational demands of living in complex social groups.
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Definition of the social brain?
the complex network of brain areas that enable us to recognise others and evaulate their mental states, feelings, dispositions and actions. (Blakemore, 2008)
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Areas involved in the social brain
mPFC, anterior cingulate cortex, inferior frontal gyrus, superior temporal sulcus, amygdala and anterior insula.
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How does the social brain develop
gets bigger and adds new neurons in childhood to late adolescance. Most neurons form before birth, and expansion happens due to growth of synapses, dendrites, myelination, glia.
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Synaptic density
Peaks after birht, 150% of adult level.
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Examples of methods of SCN
Performance measures, observational measures, survey measures
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theory of mind
a person's ability to make attributions about mental states, such as intentions, desires or beliefs, and to understand that others have beliefs, intentions and desires that are different from one's own
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Evidence for innate understanding of others
Newborns prefer face-like stimuli and top heavy faces (farroni, 2005). Newborns copy facial expressions.
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Deficits of TOM in atypical development
Johnson, 2005. Autistic children don't show gaze cueing. Older autistic children are cued by eye gaze and arrows - Senju, 2004.
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What age do we start understanding others?
18 months - distinguish between pretend and real, and can do the mentalising animation task,
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When does false belief understanding develop
4-5 years.
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What brain areas are involved?
TPJ and mPFC discriminate children who pass and fail - Sabbagh, 2005
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How does our understanding of others change over adolescance?
Facial recognition decreases between adolescance and adulthood. Dorsal mPFC during mentalising tasks increases during adolescance. Activity moves from anteroir mPFC to posterior STS regoins with age.
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Structural changes in adolescance
grey matter changes between childhood and adolescence, due to synaptic pruning.
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Sally Anne task for adults
Dumontheil, 2010 - moving the ball to the left task.
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The mentalising network
pSTS at the TPJ, temporal poles, PFC - especially dmPFC, OFC.
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How can we understand eachother?
Simulation theory, common coding theory.
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Define common coding theory
the same neural correlates for obervation and action
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three levels of empathy
Cognitive, affective and behavioural
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How can we measure empathy?
Bodily responses, questionaire based, neural responses, empathic accuracy
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Why did empathy evolve?
Parental care? Fitness advantage - survival of the group. neural reuse theory.
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Empathy network
Anterior insula, dACC, anterior midcingulate cortex, supplementary motor area, amygdala, brainstem, PAG.
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Empathy network and pain
Some of the areas involved are pain network areas - but not all. it is a very complex experience
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Pain matrix activation in empathy
The affective but not sensory componants of pain matrix activated during empathy. AI and ACC activation correlated with empathy scores.
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Imagining empathy and pain
Cheng, 2010 - imagining a loved one in pain increases activity in ACC and insula. Imagning a stranger in pain increased rTJP and superior frontal gyrus.
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Ways that empathy for pain can be modulated
Properties of the pain sufferer and properties of the empathiser
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Studies for properties of the pain sufferer
Decety, 2009 - empathy higher when aids contracted through blood transfusion rather than drug addiction. Xu, 2009 - empathy lower for different ethnic group, Singler, 2006 - unfair.
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Properties of the empathiser
Physicians did not show activity in the pain matrix when watching needle pricks - Cheng, 2007
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Empathy in adolescance studies
Insula activation correlates with prosocial email writing - higher empathy. Masten, 2010.
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Social Pain
There is an overlap between bodily and emotional pain.
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Studies that show the overlap
More pain-sensitive people are more sensitive to rejection. Eisenberger, 2006 - communication?
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Pain killers for social pain
Dewall, 2010 - pain killers reduce activation in the dACC when rejected in cyberball.
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What is Love?
Love is the emotion associated with being in an attachment relationship. Dyadic and caring.
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Studies that show love can buffer pain
Master, 2009 Participants experienced less pain when holding a partners hand or when looking at a photo of their partner.
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Love and fMRI
Bartels and Zeki - 2000. Viewing pictures of loved one activated reward systems. Deactivation in mentalising regoins, such as amygdala, TPJ.
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Love can hurt
Higher attachement avoidance predicted greater pain rating when the partner was present, Krahe, 2015
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The kinds of approaches involved in SCN


developmental, clinical, social psychology, cognitive neuroscience, neuroeconomics, biology, evolutionary antropology, philosophy

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Definitive definition


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Describe the different levels at which we can understand social behaviour


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Why is SCN important?


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