Social Neuroscience: Progress and Implications for Mental Health

Perspect Psychol Sci. 2007 Jun;2(2):99-123. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-6916.2007.00032.x.


Social neuroscience is a new, interdisciplinary field devoted to understanding how biological systems implement social processes and behavior. Social neuroscience capitalizes on biological concepts and methods to inform and refine theories of social behavior, and it uses social and behavioral constructs and data to inform and refine theories of neural organization and function. We focus here on the progress and potential of social neuroscience in the area of mental health. Research in social neuroscience has grown dramatically in recent years. Among the most active areas of research we found are 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. We also found that these areas of research are proceeding along largely independent trajectories. Our goals in this article are to review the development of this field, examine some currently promising approaches, identify obstacles and opportunities for future advances and integration, and consider how this research can inform work on the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders.