Dataset Open Access

The "social brain" is highly sensitive to the mere presence of social information: An automated meta-analysis and an independent study

Ivy F. Tso1,2*, Saige E. Rutherford1, Yu Fang1, Mike Angstadt1, & Stephan F. Taylor1,2

Abstract

How the human brain process social information is an increasingly researched topic in psychology and neuroscience, advancing our understanding of basic human cognition and psychopathologies.  Neuroimaging studies typically seek to isolate one specific aspect of social cognition when trying to map its neural substrates.  It is unclear if brain activation elicited by different social cognitive processes and task instructions are also spontaneously elicited by  general social information.  In this study, we investigated whether these brain regions are evoked by the mere presence of social information using an automated meta-analysis and confirmatory data from an independent study of simple appraisal of social vs. non-social images.  Results of 1,000 published fMRI studies containing the keyword of “social” were subject to an automated meta-analysis (neurosynth.org).  To confirm that significant brain regions in the meta-analysis were driven by a social effect, these brain regions were used as regions of interest (ROIs) to extract and compare BOLD fMRI signals of social vs. non-social conditions in the independent study.  The NeuroSynth results indicated that the dorsal and ventral medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, bilateral amygdala, bilateral occipito-temporal junction, right fusiform gyrus, bilateral temporal pole, and right inferior frontal gyrus are commonly engaged in studies with a prominent social element.  The social – non-social contrast in the independent study showed a strong resemblance of the NeuroSynth map.  ROI analyses revealed that a social effect was credible in 8 out of the 11 NeuroSynth regions in the independent dataset.  The findings support that the “social brain” is highly sensitive to the mere presence of social information. 

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