Morphometric gray matter differences of the medial frontal cortex influence the Social Simon Effect

Neuroimage. 2012 Jul 16;61(4):1249-54. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.03.061. Epub 2012 Mar 29.


Interacting with others plays a fundamental role in human life. Although several brain regions have recently been associated with complex cognitive control processes, surprisingly little is known about the structural correlates underlying cognitive control processes involved in social interactions. In the present study we used gray matter voxel-based morphometry (VBM) to investigate structural brain correlates of individual performance differences in a social Simon task. Here, two people share a Simon task, which requires each participant to respond to only one of two possible stimuli, rendering the paradigm a go-nogo task, so that a Simon effect - known as the Social Simon Effect (SSE) - is observable across both participants. Using a whole brain approach, we found that inter-individual differences in the SSE are negatively correlated with gray matter (GM) volume of the medial frontal cortex (MFC). The present data indicate that individuals with larger MFC GM volume were those with better conflict resolution in a social Simon task and vice versa. This brain-behavior relationship between cognitive control processes and individual GM volume differences might help to improve our understanding of social interactions in joint task performance.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Social Behavior
  • Young Adult