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Flashcards in Social and Emotional functioning Deck (23)
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What is the 'social brain'

The social brain:-
Allows us to interact with other people. As with all our interactions with the world, we can do much better if we can predict what is going to happen next.
Dedicated to social cognition (how people process, stroe and apply info about others and social situations)
Brothers (1990)


Set of brain regions associated with the social brain (6)

1) Amygdala*
2) Orbitofrontal cortex*
3)Temporal cortex*
4) medial prefronal cortex
5) TPJ
6) Mirror neurone system
7) Fusiform face area

(Frith, 2006)

* = Brothers (1990) original suggestion
- The evidence for her proposal came largely from studies of monkeys. After lesions to the amygdala, monkeys become socially isolated (Kling & Brothers 1992


what is the mirror neurone system + is it legit?

**Mirror neurons are a type of brain cell that respond equally when we perform an action and when we witness someone else perform the same action**

Allow us to understand meaning of the actions and emotions of others by internally simulating and replicating them

Turella et al. (2009) - say that it has not been found in the same way in humans + we can do it w.out these brain areas/use other brain areas (fmri review) // BUT fmri picks up on activation even when its not there (dead salmon, ) & also says theres a difference even when there isn't a sig diff at all; random activity. (Biello, 2016)

1) Binder et al. (2017) lesion study to the LH after stroke affected IFG, IPL, STS (core regions of MNS) affetced imitation, recognition, and comprehension of meaningful actions.
2) Molenberghs et al. (2012) meta analysis; supports the roles of the IFG + IPL in MNS. But also suggests there is an large array that isn't involved
3) ASD have probs with action imitation; functional and structural differences found in connectivity between regions involved in MNS in ASD (Fishman et al., 2015) SAME areas as above



inferior frontal gyrus
inferior parietal lobe
superior temporal sulcus (responds to bodies)


Mirror neurons + emotion

inferior frontal gyrus activation (Baird et al. 2011)


- insula (AI) active for own disgust & also involved in someone else's disgust too Rizzolatti, & Sinigaglia, (2016).

ALSO been shown for emotions other than disgust

a) Pain
Noiciceptive pain is generally considered to have the same neural grounding as vicarious pain (Lamm et al. 2011)
-- Anterior cingulate cortex & the anterior insula
-- Suggested that this isn't just detection of other's pain BUT may simply reflect a general aversive
response and activation of the threat detection and
defensive preparation system (Decety, 2010)

b) Pleasure
Hennenlotter et al. (2005)
- perceiving and expressing pleasant facial affect shares the same neural substrates as the motor processing of it
Left anterior insula & IFG

SO THIS highlights the importance
of regions outside the MNS in empathy for pain and
other specific emotions.


what are the brain networks involved in ToM/mentalising?

- medial prefronal cortex
- temporoparietal junction (TPJ)
- temporal poles
- precneus

Adolphs (2010)


TPJ role in ToM

Perspective taking

1. Bilateral activation of the TPJ in ToM tasks (false belief) (Jenkins & Mitchell, 2010)
2. Lesion studies = Bilateral TPJ needed for mental state attribution (false belief tasks) (Samson et al., 2004).

3. Catmur et al. (2015) = TMS. Stimulation of the bilateral TPJ - didn't find stimulation effects on their ToM task.

4. They suggest that TPJ may not reflect ToM abilities themselves BUT reflect processing that's reliably (but not exlusive) to ToM --> ATTENTION (Mitchell, 2007)

a. Attentional cueing task + false belief task = same activation in the TPJ for both tasks

b. Damage to the temporo-parietal junction commonly results in unilateral spatial neglect, a clinical syndrome marked by an individual’s failure to orient naturally to the space contralateral to the lesion (Mesulam 1981).

*** TPJ = attentional control network (Geng, 2013)
***TPJ activation isn't specific to mental state attribution ***


Role of medial prefrontal cortex in ToM

- FMRI study found no role of the mpfc in ToM task (Otti et al. 2017) & this is backed up by Bird (2004) & Farrant (2012) frontal lobe epliepsy (only in story tasks NOT RMET) LESION STUDIES

- as is the problem with lesion studies = G.T.'s lesion (Bird et al. 2004) did not involve all areas of the medial frontal lobe necessary to subserve ToM
Frontal lobe epilepsy = found no diff in the ToM story task but did find in RMET (control vs FLE) WHY? problems with verbal fluency & Farrant (2012) used RMET (Verbal fluency > empathy) (Sarkis et al. 2013)

There is converging evidence supporting the notion that, on a functional level, the mPFC is not ToM-specific but domain-general INVOLVED IN LOADS OF AREAS
Autobiographic memory, self-reflection, prospection, personality traits, emotional empathy etc (Otti, 2017)

Our findings support the notion that mPFC activity is not involved in mentalization itself; rather, it contributes to the self-related processes that are often associated with ToM.


Fusiform gyrus

- Important for structural encoding of faces in the environment (Phelphrey, 2008) ALSO Greebles (Gauthier, 1999)

- Gautheier et al. (2000) ---- got specialist of cars & birds + found that actually category recognition; also lights up for bird and car categories (FFA activation depends on the level of expertise ofthe individuals, rather than on the visual fea-tures of the stimuli) --> EXPERTISE HYPOTHESIS

BUT -- Domain specificty hypothesis has more of a following (i..e FFA just for face processing b/c:)

- Dog experts shown muddled up dogs and faces (inversion effect = hallmark of face processing) BUT they found that the processing of dogs wasn't affected, (i.e. expertise sped up the processing of but muddling up faces affected the identification SO it can't just be expertise ---- SUPPORTED BY FMRI which showed little overlap of faces vs expertise activation (Rhodes et al. 2004)

- ALSO prospopagnoisa = just as proficent @ greeble face training (Duchaine & Nakayama, 2006).

Suggest the activation in the expertise hypothesis = due to increased attention payed by experts i.e. activation in the FFA activity (Furey, 2006)


what + types of

What = the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

1) Cognitive empathy --> Also called ToM; the ability to take on and understand other’s mental states.
Deliberate perspective taking
*** Both ToM and empathy rely on a related network of executive functions, including working memory (e.g. Morelli and Lieberman, 2013)

2) Affective empathy --> is the subjective state resulting from emotional contagion.

*** the two are doubly dissociated (Nummenmaa, et al. 2008)***

There is a need for a cost-effective, ecologically valid measure of affective empathy (Koirikivi, 2014)***


Evidence for cognitive empathy brain regions (using cognitive tasks)

Contreras et al. 2013 + (Mahy et al. 2013) -->
medial pFC, temporal lobe, TPJ, and parietal cortex


Evidence for affective empathy (emotional contagion system

mirror neuron system & areas outside of the MNS (Baird, 2011)



Autism is a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them.

Our work is showing that in ASD it is primarily cognitive empathy that is impaired, whilst affective empathy is intact (baron-Cohen + wheeler, 2005)

This dissociation suggests these have independent biological mechanisms.”


Measuring cognitive empathy (overview of tests) (3)

1) Sally- Anne test
2) Reading the mind in the eyes test (RMET-A) (Baron-Cohen, 1997/2001)
3)Empathy Quotient


The Sally Anne test EVAL (5)

- This suggests that people who are high in empathy can successfully interpret events according to the character’s FB, while low empathizers bias their interpretation of events to their own egocentric view. (Ferguson et al. 2015)


- Y/N format - ASD is spectrum

- it may not be ToM deficit in ASD + THIS TASK but a language & attentional deficit (when controlling for these, ASD individuals succeeded in Sally Anne task – Korkiakangas et al. 2016)

- ASD have problems with planning + execution of behaviour (Luna et al. 2007); this would impair their performance in this task (Pisula, 2010) ***Children with better planning skills and inhibitory control are more likely to pass false belief tasks (Tager-Flushberg, 2007)

- Ppts respond to the question in a multitude of valid ways & testers may treat these as test-irrelevant behaviours if they do not correspond to the scoring criteria (attention – pick up & language – verbal interaction)


Reading the mind in the eyes test (RMET-A)

idea = Information about someone’s emotional state (important for social communication) = available through their facial expression (Ekman & Friesen, 1971)
- initial version had a two option forced choice

- validity correlates with conceptually similar instruments (EQ)

- validity of the RMET-C is provided by Moor and colleagues (2012), who found that the brain regions involved in social perception were activated when participants solved the test


COGNITIVE EMPATHY Reading the mind through the eyes test (RMET-A)

**test assumes one’s psychological state is portrayed in their eyes AND that we are sensitive to this**

1) Are expressions necessarily linked to affective experience?
- You could be smiling but actually feel angry inside (posed vs genuine expressions) = not acknowledged in RMET
- RMET wants you to assess the psych state of the target the ACTUAL affective experience is unknown

2) Are affective states specified by information from the eye region?
- Basic states yes
- complex states (preoccupied) = no; need more context
- lists provide some context but results change depending on the list (Adolphs et al. 2002)

SO ASD perform badly on this test = A central feature of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is an impairment in 'social attention'--the prioritized processing of socially relevant information, e.g. the eyes and face (Neww et al. 2010)
- i.e. it may be that attention may not have been on the eyes > not inferring the emotional state from the image.

3) (Adams et al. 2010) – not cross cultural. All eyes are Caucasian (better @ own cultures eyes)

4) verbal fluency > empathy (Petterson & Miller, 2012)

5) Alexithmyia (Cook et al. 2013)


why may ASD be impaired on emotion recognition tasks?

COOK ET AL. 2013
- Alexithymia is associated with impaired recognition of emotional expressions

- recent findings suggest that several other emotional deficits attributed to autism may instead be due to co-occurring alexithymia, including socioemotional deficits in empathy (Bird et al., 2010)

- we found that alexithymia and not autism predicted the precision of participants’ attributions of emotional expressions
***not many studies control for in testing ASD ppls.


Empathy Quotient WHAT

60-item questionnaire (there is also a shorter, 40-item version) designed to measure empathy in adults
- PCA revealed three factors: (1) ‘cognitive empathy’; (2) ‘emotional reactivity’, and (3) ‘social skills’. (Lawrence et al. 2004)


Empathy Quotient EVAL

- ASD may have impaired the subject’s ability to judge their own social or communicative behaviour, because of subtle mind-reading problems that are found even in adult patients (Happe, 1994)
- if this impairment had occurred, it would have led the person to score higher on the EQ (but it was significantly lower), rating their own behaviour as more empathic than it might really be.

- Women score slightly but significantly higher on the EQ than men (Davis, 1980)
- sensitve to age; older = less sensitive to emotional cues (Khanjani et al. 2015)


Affective empathy
Interpersonal Reactivity Index (Davis, 1980) EVAL

- the 2 factor (cog+aff emp) structure usually used in the literature differs from the initial 4 factor structure proposed.
- ^ BUT doesnt accurately measure empathy; poor model fit

- There is an inherent bias of the questionnaire toward cognitive empathy
--- in this scale, cognitive empathy acts as a gatekeeper to the accurate measurement of affective empathy (i.e. need cog to understand aff in items)
--------- SOO a diminished ability for cognitive empathy may substantially influence one’s responses on affective empathy item (Thompson, 2015)


Affective Empathy

Questionnaire of Cognitive and Affective Empathy

Eres et al. (2015)

- neural correlates make sense:
Higher scores on affective empathy were associated with greater gray matter density in the insula cortex and higher scores of cognitive empathy were associated with greater gray matter density in the MCC/dmPFC
- Good reliability and strong convergent/divergent validity


Problems with Self report in ASD

Bishop + Seltzer, 2015
- limited insight; may hinder their report of their own behaviour
** appears to be a great deal of variability in this population. It cannot be assumed that an adult with ASD will necessarily exhibit low levels of social interest or motivation.

Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) --- has an option for the carer/ closest person to fill out = IMPORTANT + GOOD