Tuesday 13 April 2010

Research Bulletin: Social Concepts in the Brain

A number of papers have reviewed the neuroscience work pertaining to the processing of stories (Mar, 2004; Ferstl et al., 2008). These articles have revealed a network of brain areas that seems to be consistently involved when people either read or hear stories. The functions performed by each individual region, however, have been the subject of much debate. Recently, however, a study has helped to greatly disambiguate one particular brain region, the anterior temporal lobes (see picture). While some have hypothesized that this region helps us make connections between individual sentences, others have argued that this region acts to represent semantic information, irrespective of the domain of knowledge. Simmons and colleagues (2010) examined the brain’s response to learning facts about different people, buildings or hammers. They found that the anterior temporal region demonstrated a selective response to facts about people, indicating that this part of the brain might be key to processing social information. In a separate analysis, they also found that this brain region was closely associated with other parts of the brain also implicated in social processing. This study adds to the growing body of evidence that story processing and social processing are closely related.

Ferstl EC, Neumann J, Bogler C, von Cramon DY. 2008. The extended language network: A meta-analysis of neuroimaging studies on text comprehension. Hum. Brain Mapp. 29:581–593.

Mar RA. 2004. The neuropsychology of narrative: Story comprehension, story production and their interrelation. Neuropsychologia. 42:1414–1434.

Simmons WK, Reddish M, Bellgowan PSF, Martin A. (2010). The selectivity and functional connectivity of the anterior temporal lobes. Cereb. Cortex. 20:813–825.

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