The social brain?

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2007 Apr 29;362(1480):671-8. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2006.2003.


The notion that there is a 'social brain' in humans specialized for social interactions has received considerable support from brain imaging and, to a lesser extent, from lesion studies. Specific roles for the various components of the social brain are beginning to emerge. For example, the amygdala attaches emotional value to faces, enabling us to recognize expressions such as fear and trustworthiness, while the posterior superior temporal sulcus predicts the end point of the complex trajectories created when agents act upon the world. It has proved more difficult to assign a role to medial prefrontal cortex, which is consistently activated when people think about mental states. I suggest that this region may have a special role in the second-order representations needed for communicative acts when we have to represent someone else's representation of our own mental state. These cognitive processes are not specifically social, since they can be applied in other domains. However, these cognitive processes have been driven to ever higher levels of sophistication by the complexities of social interaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition*
  • Emotions*
  • Humans
  • Intelligence*
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Thinking / physiology*