March 29, 2011

Being rejected a real pain, brain images show

From CBC News:

The pain of rejection is more than just a figure of speech: regions of the brain that respond to physical pain overlap with those that react to social rejection, a brain imaging study shows.

The study used brain imaging on people involved in romantic breakups.

“These results give new meaning to the idea that rejection ‘hurts,”‘ wrote psychology professor Ethan Kross of the University of Michigan and his colleagues. Their findings are reported in Tuesday’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Co-author Edward Smith of Columbia University explained that the research shows that psychological or social events can affect regions of the brain that scientists thought were dedicated to physical pain.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Click here for full access to the study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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January 11, 2011

Neuroscientist, VS Ramachandran: The neurons that Shaped Civilization

Enjoy this short video:


Neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran outlines the fascinating functions of mirror neurons. Only recently discovered, these neurons allow us to learn complex social behaviors, some of which formed the foundations of human civilization as we know it.


Hans Bauer

Jun 24 2010: Any species of comparable level in evolution may attain mirror neurons or something equivalent one day. May even be that this is already happening without our notice. It will hardly happen within a few days. As we heard it took hundreds of thousands of years for us.

May be that some species will develop culture and civilization one day – that is if mankind will not interfere.

By the way – my tom cat sometimes pees standing on two legs. Who knows how he learned it? :)

Watch the video, and read more

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March 27, 2008

Neuroeconomics conference Copenhagen, May 2008

A unique opportunity to learn about contemporary neuroeconomics

We are writing to you in connection with the Conference on Neuroeconomics (ConNEcs 2008), which is going to take place at the Copenhagen Business School May 14-16, 2008. The conference is arranged by Center for Marketing Communication in cooperation with Hilke Plassmann (CalTech, US) and Peter Kenning (Zeppelin University, Germany).


The primary goal of the conference is to establish an international discussion forum for research on Neuroeconomics. Also the conference aims to look into how decision neuroscience can inform consumer and business research, and to illuminate how consumer behaviour is represented in the brain. We expect 150 participants comprising international researchers as well as various organisations and industries.

This unique conference gives you the opportunity to meet members of the most advanced, international research community working with neuromarketing, neuroeconomics and decision neuroscience research.

At CBS we are developing a Decision neuroscience project in corporation with Hvidovre Hospital. At the conference you will also learn about this research.

We recommend you to sign up for the conference.

Attached you will find a more detailed description of the conference including the conference program and registration form. You are also more than welcome to contact us for further information.

We look forward to hearing from you and please feel free to distribute the programme to interested parties.

Kind regards,

ConNEcs 2008 Organizing Committee:

  • Flemming Hansen,
  • Peter Kenning,
  • Hilke Plassmann and
  • Majken L. Møller

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January 22, 2008

San Marino Summer School on Social Cognition and Social Narrative

APPLICATION DEADLINE 1 March 2008. Please let your grad students know about this.

The European Science Foundation and the ESF project Consciousness in a Natural and Cultural Context is sponsoring a one-week interdisciplinary collegium/summer school on contemporary research in the area of social cognition, theory of mind, and narrative theory at the University of San Marino in San Marino (geographically within Italy). See the collegium website.

Organizers: Shaun Gallagher, Dan Hutto, Dan Zahavi.

The collegium/summer school is open to a limited number of graduate students and post-doc researchers interested in theory of mind and the role of narrative and embodied intersubjectivity in our understanding of others. Research presentations, discussions, and tutorial sessions will allow researchers and students to share knowledge and interact. Students will have the opportunity to earn 15 points in the ECTS system.

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December 10, 2007

Subliminal smells bias perception about a person’s likeability

From — Anyone who has bonded with a puppy madly sniffing with affection gets an idea of how scents, most not apparent to humans, are critical to a dog’s appreciation of her two-legged friends. Now new research from Northwestern University suggests that humans also pick up infinitesimal scents that affect whether or not we like somebody. “We evaluate people every day and make judgments about who we like or don’t like,” said Wen Li, a post-doctoral fellow in the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine and lead author of the study. “We may think our judgments are based only on various conscious bits of information, but our senses also may provide subliminal perceptual information that affects our behavior.”

“Subliminal Smells Can Guide Social Preferences” was published in the December issue of Psychological Science. Besides Li, the
study’s co-investigators include Isabel Moallem, Loyola University; Ken Paller, professor of psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern; and Jay Gottfried, assistant professor of neurology at Feinberg and senior author of the paper.

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November 26, 2007

Social neuroeconomics: the neural circuitry of social preferences

Combining the methods of neuroscience and economics generates powerful tools for studying the brain processes behind human social interaction. We argue that hedonic interpretations of theories of social preferences provide a useful framework that generates interesting predictions and helps interpret brain activations involved in altruistic, fair and trusting behaviors. These behaviors are consistently associated with activation in reward-related brain areas, such as the striatum, and with prefrontal activity implicated in cognitive control, the processing of emotions, and integration of benefits and costs, consistent with resolution of a conflict between self-interest and other-regarding motives.

Fehr & Camerer in Trends in Cognitive Science 2007 Oct ; 11(10): 419-27


PDF of article

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Is Theory of Mind dependent on episodic memory?

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November 9, 2007

Brain Chemicals Involved In Aggression Identified

From ScienceDaily (Nov. 7, 2007) — School shootings. Muggings. Murder. Road rage. After decreasing for more than a decade, the rate of violent crime in the United States has begun to inch up again. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, violent crime rose 2.3 percent in 2005 and 1.9 percent in 2006, the first steady increase since 1993.

And new studies are helping scientists gain deeper insight into the neurobiology of aggression and violence. One analysis of brain imaging studies has revealed that brain structures involved in making moral judgments are often damaged in violent individuals. Another study involving teenage boys suggests that disruptions in a brain region linked to impulsive, aggressive behavior may underlie a certain type of violent, reactive behavior.

Still other research has shed new light on the role that certain brain chemicals play in aggressive behavior, including in maternal aggression. And new animal studies reveal that aggressive encounters cause changes in the brains of aggressors as well as their victims that increase vulnerability to depression and immune-related illnesses.

“Violence in our society is a major concern, indeed, a national health problem,” says Craig Ferris, PhD, of Northeastern University in Boston. “Understanding the confluence of events, both environmental and biological, that trigger a violent act has been the focus of educators, health professionals, and scientists for decades.

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October 22, 2007

Empathy for Pain and Touch in the Human Somatosensory Cortex

empathicpain.jpegAlthough feeling pain and touch has long been considered inherently private, recent neuroimaging and neurophysiological studies hint at the social implications of this experience. Here we used somatosensory-evoked potentials (SEPs) to investigate whether mere observation of painful and tactile stimuli delivered to a model would modulate neural activity in the somatic system of an onlooker.

Viewing video clips showing pain and tactile stimuli delivered to others, respectively, increased and decreased the amplitude of the P45 SEP component that reflects the activity of the primary somatosensory cortex (S1). These modulations correlated with the intensity but not with the unpleasantness of the pain and touch ascribed to the model or the aversion induced in the onlooker by the video clips. Thus, modulation of S1 activity contingent upon observation of others’ pain and touch may reflect the mapping of sensory qualities of observed painful and tactile stimuli.

Results indicate that the S1 is not only involved in the actual perception of pain and touch but also plays an important role in extracting somatic features from social interactions.

Bufalari et al. in Cerebral Cortex

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September 9, 2007

Science: special issue on social cognition

socialcognition.jpegScience is running a special edition on social cognition this week. It contains papers on the evolution of social cognition

Living in Societies – Caroline Ash, Gilbert Chin, Elizabeth Pennisi, and Andrew Sugden

All Together Now–Pull! – Greg Miller

Evolution in the Social Brain – R. I. M. Dunbar and Susanne Shultz

Social Components of Fitness in Primate Groups – Joan B. Silk

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September 6, 2007

Higher social skills are uniquely human

chimp1.jpgA new study published today in Science reports that humans have distinctive social skills. Esther Herrmann, lead author of the study, answers Scitizen’s questions.

Apes bite and try to break a tube to retrieve the food inside while children follow the experimenter’s example to get inside the tube to retrieve the prize, showing that even before preschool, toddlers are more sophisticated in their social learning skills than their closest primate relatives, according to a report published in the 7 September issue of the journal Science.

This innate proficiency allows them to excel in both physical and social skills as they begin school and progress through life.

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August 26, 2007

When the Need to Belong Goes Wrong

socialphobia.jpegWhen the Need to Belong Goes Wrong: The Expression of Social Anhedonia and Social Anxiety in Daily Life

People possess an innate need to belong that drives social interactions. Aberrations in the need to belong, such as social anhedonia and social anxiety, provide a point of entry for examining this need. The current study used experience-sampling methodology to explore deviations in the need to belong in the daily lives of 245 undergraduates. Eight times daily for a week, personal digital assistants signaled subjects to complete questionnaires regarding affect, thoughts, and behaviors.

As predicted, higher levels of social anhedonia were associated with increased time alone, greater preference for solitude, and lower positive affect. Higher social anxiety, in contrast, was associated with higher negative affect and was not associated with increased time alone. Furthermore, greater social anxiety was associated with greater self-consciousness and preference to be alone while interacting with unfamiliar people.

Thus, deviations in the need to belong affect social functioning differently depending on whether this need is absent or thwarted.

Psychologial Science

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August 2, 2007

Ventromedial moral

ventromedialpfc.jpegDoes the ventromedial prefrontal cortex play a role in personal moral judgment? has a nice report on 7 patients with lesions in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex that find that “the ventromedial prefrontal cortex is necessary to oppose personal moral violations, possibly by mediating anticipatory, self-focused, emotional reactions that may exert strong influence on moral choice and behavior.”

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June 18, 2007

The human mirror system: A motor resonance theory of mind-reading

janegoodall.jpgElectrophysiological data confirm the existence of neurons that respond to both motor and sensory events in the macaque brain. These mirror neurons respond to execution and observation of goal-orientated actions. It has been suggested that they comprise a neural basis for encoding an internal representation of action. In this paper the evidence for a parallel system in humans is reviewed and the implications for human theory of mind processing are discussed. Different components of theory of mind are discussed; the evidence for mirror activity within subtypes is addressed. While there is substantial evidence for a human mirror system, there are weaknesses in the attempts to localize such a system in the brain. Preliminary evidence indicates that mirror neurons may be involved in theory of mind; however, these data by their very nature are reliant on the presence, and precise characterization, of the human mirror system.


Agnew ZK, Bhakoo KK, Puri BK
Brain Res Rev. 2007 Jun ; 54(2): 286-293

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March 22, 2007

Altruistic punishment

Why do we punish others? And why do we punish when it is personally costly? In a recent review in Nature Review Neuroscience Ben Seymour and colleagues discuss the neurobiology of punishment.

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March 21, 2007

They love to make you mad

angry.gifSome people find angry looks from others so rewarding they go out of their way to encourage them, Michigan researchers said.

“It’s kind of striking that an angry facial expression is consciously valued as a very negative signal by almost everyone, yet at a non-conscious level can be like a tasty morsel that some people will vigorously work for,” said Oliver Schultheiss, University of Michigan associate professor of psychology.

His study may explain why some people like to tease each other, he said.

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March 8, 2007

Can we improve mind reading?

oxytocin.pngIs it possible to improve our ability to read other’s minds? In the case of mind-reading disabilities such as that found in autism spectrum disorder, it has been suggested that it is possible to train patients to become better at reading other’s minds.

What, then about pharmacological interventions? Is there an “empathy drug” that makes us more empathic? In a priority communication in Biological Psychiatry, Domes et al. report that the administration of oxitocin (relative to placebo effect) improves the ability to infer the mental state of others from social cues of the eye region. Hubmed abstract; Full Text.

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February 20, 2007

Biological Psychiatry — Special issue on autism

autist.gifThe journal Biological Psychiatry has a special issue on the autism spectrum, its diagnosis and treatment.

It is a comprehensive yet diverse collection of multidisciplinary treatment of the issue, containing articles onautism and phenotypic homogeneity; cortical layering and thickness; cortical dysfunction; executive function and gaze fixation.

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November 19, 2006

What money does to people

dollars.jpgIn what way does money change the way people think and act? According to a new study reported in Science, adding monetary motivation and reminders made people act more self-sufficient.

Interestingly, being reminded of the money did not even have to be done consciously. Priming had the same effect on self-sufficient behaviour versus requests for help from others.

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October 15, 2006

Dressing up with hormones

womandressed.jpgWomen tend to be influenced by their ovulation status when they pick their clothes. “Near ovulation, women dress to impress, and the closer women come to ovulation, the more attention they appear to pay to their appearance,” said Martie Haselton, the study’s lead author and a UCLA associate professor of communication studies and psychology. “They tend to put on skirts instead of pants, show more skin and generally dress more fashionably.”
You can get the PDF version of the article here.

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