Social interactions stimulate the development of appropriate structures in the brain

(ORDO NEWS) — Experiments on monkeys have shown that the developed parts of the brain necessary to maintain a wide range of communication are not given to us from birth, but are formed as this very communication.

Interaction with your own kind is one of the most difficult tasks that the brain solves. It requires understanding the state and desires of others, relating them to one’s own needs, the ability to recognize emotions, empathize, and many other higher cognitive functions.

In humans, their implementation is mostly occupied by specialized sections of the “social brain” located in the superior temporal sulcus , the insular cortex, and some other areas.

This functionality turned out to be possible to trace even in the images of the brain. Experiments with laboratory primates have shown that the more sociable an animal is and the more varied partners it has in grooming combing and grooming the more voluminous its brain regions are both in the superior temporal sulcus and in the insula.

The team of University of Pennsylvania professor Michael Platt used rhesus monkeys living freely on an island off the coast of Puerto Rico.

Scientists have been following this group for more than a decade, tracking their lives and relationships, including grooming, which serves as a key way for such animals to establish social bonds.

So, for example, it turned out that after the hurricane that hit the island in 2018, Rhesus became “kinder” to each other and more actively combed out the hair of their relatives, with whom they had practically never interacted before.

For the new work, 68 adult macaques from this group were ranked according to five indicators of sociality, including status in the hierarchy and the number of grooming partners.

In addition, these animals and 35 other subadults were captured for MRI and data on the anatomy of their brains. As expected based on past work , adult animals with more social connections showed increased volume of structures in the region of the superior temporal sulcus and insula.

Apparently, they are not born with these features: tomography of the brain of Rhesus infants and children did not reveal such differences in them.

Most likely, they develop gradually, as they socialize. “When it comes to the skills that are required to create and maintain numerous friendships, ” Prof. Platt says , “one might think that they are “hardwired” in the brain from birth, but these abilities seem to develop from the relationships themselves.”


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