Dynamic social adaptation of motion-related neurons in primate parietal cortex

PLoS One. 2007 Apr 25;2(4):e397. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0000397.


Social brain function, which allows us to adapt our behavior to social context, is poorly understood at the single-cell level due largely to technical limitations. But the questions involved are vital: How do neurons recognize and modulate their activity in response to social context? To probe the mechanisms involved, we developed a novel recording technique, called multi-dimensional recording, and applied it simultaneously in the left parietal cortices of two monkeys while they shared a common social space. When the monkeys sat near each other but did not interact, each monkey's parietal activity showed robust response preference to action by his own right arm and almost no response to action by the other's arm. But the preference was broken if social conflict emerged between the monkeys-specifically, if both were able to reach for the same food item placed on the table between them. Under these circumstances, parietal neurons started to show complex combinatorial responses to motion of self and other. Parietal cortex adapted its response properties in the social context by discarding and recruiting different neural populations. Our results suggest that parietal neurons can recognize social events in the environment linked with current social context and form part of a larger social brain network.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Animals
  • Macaca / physiology*
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Parietal Lobe / cytology
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Social Behavior