Speaker: Prof. Christian Ruff, University of Zurich

Time: 16:00-17:30, Oct. 8th, 2019

Venue: #1113, Wangkezhen Building, Peking University

Abstract: Numerous studies have shown that social interactions are accompanied by neural activity in a so-called “social brain network” comprising the temporoparietal junction (TPJ) and the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC). But what exactly is “social” about these brain activations? In this talk, I will present a series of experiments that investigate this issue with computational modelling, functional magnetic resonance imaging, transcranial magnetic stimulation, and experimental game paradigms. The results of these studies highlight that the social-brain network as a whole does not appear specialized for detecting the presence of other living beings but rather for responding adequately to any type of behaviorally reactive process (even if this is in a non-social setting). However, our data also reveal a functional dissociation in the network, with the TPJ and the dmPFC differing in how their activation and connectivity with reward-coding brain areas is additionally enhanced by the expectation of interacting with a living being. Our results question common interpretations of activity in the human social brain and characterize an overarching, social-context-independent computational property driving activity of this brain network. However, our data also suggest functional specialization in how different subregions of this network may be cued in the use of these computations by the presence of a social context.

Bio: Prof. Christian Ruff is Full Professor of Laboratory for Social and Neural Systems Research and Department of Economics, University of Zurich. He got his PhD degree in Cognitive Neuroscience from UCL, London. Prof. Christian Ruff's main research interests lie in the neural mechanism of perception, economic and social decision-making. He has published more than 150 papers on journals, including Science, Nature Neuroscience etc. Please refer to the attachment for details.

Host: Prof. Xiaolin Zhou