A new study from the American “Yale University” has found a scientific explanation for the widespread neural response in multiple areas of the brain that occurs when two people’s eyes meet and a social interaction occurs between them, whether friendship, emotional attachment, or even a feeling of discomfort, according to what was published by the “Neuroscience News” website. ” Neuroscience News.
“There are very strong signals in the brain that correlate with reactive social outlook,” said Steve Chang of Yale University, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience, member of the Wu Cai Institute and the Kavli Institute of Neuroscience, and lead author of the study.
The phenomenon of extracting meaning in the gaze between two people has been documented in art and literature for thousands of years, but scientists have had difficulty revealing how the brain achieves such a feat.
Previously, extensive studies have been done on the neurobiology of social cognition, typically by brain scans of individuals presented with specific static images, such as angry or happy faces, direct looks, or avoidance of looking at each other. However, it was difficult to deal with the interactions of two individual brains because they extract information dynamically and mutually from each other’s eyes.
Skip a basic obstacle
What’s new is that Chang’s lab researchers overcame this hurdle by monitoring the monkeys’ brain activity while simultaneously tracking an animal’s eye positions, enabling them to automatically record a large group of neurons while the animals stared at each other automatically.
“The animals were spontaneously participating in social interactions while the researchers examined nerve firing. The most important point is that no tasks were imposed, so it was up to them to decide how and when they would interact,” Zhang said.
A look from one side.. and an exchange of looks
The researchers discovered that specific groups of socially tuned neurons fired across multiple brain regions at different times during eye contact.
For example, one set of neurons fired when one individual initiated eye contact, but not when that individual followed the other’s gaze.
Another set of neurons was active when the monkeys were deciding whether to continue the eye contact that the other one had started.
Interestingly, when fixing the gaze on another individual, some neurons determined the distance relative to another person’s eyes, but when given a look, another set of neurons indicated how close the other individual was.
prefrontal cortex and amygdala
The areas of the brain where the neural activation occurred provided hints about how the brain assesses the meaning of a gaze. Surprisingly, part of the network, which was activated during social gaze interaction, included the prefrontal cortex, the seat of high-level learning and decision-making, as well as the amygdala, the center of emotion and evaluation.
“Multiple regions within the prefrontal cortex, in addition to the amygdala, are recruited to account for selective aspects of interactive social gaze, suggesting the importance of a more reflective role during social gaze interaction,” Zhang said.
It is also known that these areas in the prefrontal and amygdala networks that are activated during processing social gaze interaction are disrupted in cases of atypical social conditions, such as autism, underscoring their importance in achieving feelings of social connectedness.
Zhang added that social gaze interaction likely plays a critical role in shaping social bonding, and the frontal lobe and amygdala networks may make this happen. “.
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