Social neuroscience and its potential contribution to psychiatry

World Psychiatry. 2014 Jun;13(2):131-9. doi: 10.1002/wps.20118.


Most mental disorders involve disruptions of normal social behavior. Social neuroscience is an interdisciplinary field devoted to understanding the biological systems underlying social processes and behavior, and the influence of the social environment on biological processes, health and well-being. Research in this field has grown dramatically in recent years. Active areas of research include brain imaging studies in normal children and adults, animal models of social behavior, studies of stroke patients, imaging studies of psychiatric patients, and research on social determinants of peripheral neural, neuroendocrine and immunological processes. Although research in these areas is proceeding along largely independent trajectories, there is increasing evidence for connections across these trajectories. We focus here on the progress and potential of social neuroscience in psychiatry, including illustrative evidence for a rapid growth of neuroimaging and genetic studies of mental disorders. We also argue that neuroimaging and genetic research focused on specific component processes underlying social living is needed.

Keywords: Social neuroscience; brain imaging; genetics; neurobiological processes; psychiatry.