Coordinate transformation approach to social interactions

Front Neurosci. 2013 Aug 21;7:147. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2013.00147. eCollection 2013.


A coordinate transformation framework for understanding how neurons compute sensorimotor behaviors has generated significant advances toward our understanding of basic brain function. This influential scaffold focuses on neuronal encoding of spatial information represented in different coordinate systems (e.g., eye-centered, hand-centered) and how multiple brain regions partake in transforming these signals in order to ultimately generate a motor output. A powerful analogy can be drawn from the coordinate transformation framework to better elucidate how the nervous system computes cognitive variables for social behavior. Of particular relevance is how the brain represents information with respect to oneself and other individuals, such as in reward outcome assignment during social exchanges, in order to influence social decisions. In this article, I outline how the coordinate transformation framework can help guide our understanding of neural computations resulting in social interactions. Implications for numerous psychiatric disorders with impaired representations of self and others are also discussed.

Keywords: agency; coordinate transformation; reference frames; reinforcement (psychology); reward; social decision making; social interactions; theory of mind (ToM).