The neural signatures of social hierarchy-related learning and interaction: A coordinate- and connectivity-based meta-analysis

Neuroimage. 2021 Dec 15:245:118731. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2021.118731. Epub 2021 Nov 14.


Numerous neuroimaging studies have investigated the neural mechanisms of two mutually independent yet closely related cognitive processes aiding humans to navigate complex societies: social hierarchy-related learning (SH-RL) and social hierarchy-related interaction (SH-RI). To integrate these heterogeneous results into a more fine-grained and reliable characterization of the neural basis of social hierarchy, we combined coordinate-based meta-analyses with connectivity and functional decoding analyses to understand the underlying neuropsychological mechanism of SH-RL and SH-RI. We identified the anterior insula and temporoparietal junction (dominance detection), medial prefrontal cortex (information updating and computation), and intraparietal sulcus region, amygdala, and hippocampus (social hierarchy representation) as consistent activated brain regions for SH-RL, but the striatum, amygdala, and hippocampus associated with reward processing for SH-RI. Our results provide an overview of the neural architecture of the neuropsychological processes underlying how we understand, and interact within, social hierarchy.

Keywords: Functional decoding; Meta-analysis; Meta-analytic connectivity modeling; Resting-state functional connectivity; Social hierarchy.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Functional Neuroimaging*
  • Hierarchy, Social*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Models, Psychological
  • Reinforcement, Psychology