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      Using second-person neuroscience to elucidate the mechanisms of social interaction

      1 , * , 2

      Nature reviews. Neuroscience

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          Although a large proportion of our lives are spent participating in social interactions, the investigation of the neural mechanisms supporting these interactions has largely been restricted to situations of social observation: that is, situations in which an individual observes a social stimulus without opportunity for interaction. In recent years, efforts have been made to develop a truly social, or ‘second-person’, neuroscientific approach to these investigations in which neural processes are examined within the context of a real-time reciprocal social interaction. These developments have helped to elucidate the behavioral and neural mechanisms of social interactions; however, further theoretical and methodological innovations are still needed. Findings to date suggest that the neural mechanisms supporting social interaction differ from those involved in social observation and highlight a role of the so-called ‘mentalizing network’ as important in this distinction. Taking social interaction seriously may also be particularly important for the advancement of the neuroscientific study of different psychiatric conditions.

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          Most cited references 89

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          Mirror neurons and the simulation theory of mind-reading.

           V Gallese (1998)
          A new class of visuomotor neuron has been recently discovered in the monkey's premotor cortex: mirror neurons. These neurons respond both when a particular action is performed by the recorded monkey and when the same action, performed by another individual, is observed. Mirror neurons appear to form a cortical system matching observation and execution of goal-related motor actions. Experimental evidence suggests that a similar matching system also exists in humans. What might be the functional role of this matching system? One possible function is to enable an organism to detect certain mental states of observed conspecifics. This function might be part of, or a precursor to, a more general mind-reading ability. Two different accounts of mind-reading have been suggested. According to `theory theory', mental states are represented as inferred posits of a naive theory. According to `simulation theory', other people's mental states are represented by adopting their perspective: by tracking or matching their states with resonant states of one's own. The activity of mirror neurons, and the fact that observers undergo motor facilitation in the same muscular groups as those utilized by target agents, are findings that accord well with simulation theory but would not be predicted by theory theory.
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            Lending a hand: social regulation of the neural response to threat.

            Social contact promotes enhanced health and well-being, likely as a function of the social regulation of emotional responding in the face of various life stressors. For this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, 16 married women were subjected to the threat of electric shock while holding their husband's hand, the hand of an anonymous male experimenter, or no hand at all. Results indicated a pervasive attenuation of activation in the neural systems supporting emotional and behavioral threat responses when the women held their husband's hand. A more limited attenuation of activation in these systems occurred when they held the hand of a stranger. Most strikingly, the effects of spousal hand-holding on neural threat responses varied as a function of marital quality, with higher marital quality predicting less threat-related neural activation in the right anterior insula, superior frontal gyrus, and hypothalamus during spousal, but not stranger, hand-holding.
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              Is Open Access

              Inter-Brain Synchronization during Social Interaction

              During social interaction, both participants are continuously active, each modifying their own actions in response to the continuously changing actions of the partner. This continuous mutual adaptation results in interactional synchrony to which both members contribute. Freely exchanging the role of imitator and model is a well-framed example of interactional synchrony resulting from a mutual behavioral negotiation. How the participants' brain activity underlies this process is currently a question that hyperscanning recordings allow us to explore. In particular, it remains largely unknown to what extent oscillatory synchronization could emerge between two brains during social interaction. To explore this issue, 18 participants paired as 9 dyads were recorded with dual-video and dual-EEG setups while they were engaged in spontaneous imitation of hand movements. We measured interactional synchrony and the turn-taking between model and imitator. We discovered by the use of nonlinear techniques that states of interactional synchrony correlate with the emergence of an interbrain synchronizing network in the alpha-mu band between the right centroparietal regions. These regions have been suggested to play a pivotal role in social interaction. Here, they acted symmetrically as key functional hubs in the interindividual brainweb. Additionally, neural synchronization became asymmetrical in the higher frequency bands possibly reflecting a top-down modulation of the roles of model and imitator in the ongoing interaction.

                Author and article information

                Nat Rev Neurosci
                Nat. Rev. Neurosci.
                Nature reviews. Neuroscience
                10 January 2020
                August 2019
                04 February 2020
                : 20
                : 8
                : 495-505
                [1 ]Department of Psychology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA
                [2 ]Max-Planck-Institute of Psychiatry, Munich, Germany
                Author notes

                Author contributions

                The authors contributed equally to all aspects of the article.

                PMC6997943 PMC6997943 6997943 nihpa1066555


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