There’s a connection between the dimensions of the social community and the construction of the mind

THE ESSENTIAL

  • The brain has control over all organs of the human body, motor and cognitive functions as well as hormone production.
  • The human brain has the same general structure as the brains of other mammals.

The more our social relations are, the more certain structures of our brain develop. This is what French researchers have just pointed out, published in the journal Science Advances.

“Arrest a social group”

The connections between the social network and the size of the brain have already been the subject of previous studies in the field of neuroscience. Scientists, for example, were interested in variations in the size of the amygdala of the human brain depending on the number of Facebook friends an individual has. To complete this research and try to better understand the organization and functions of neural networks in humans, teams from Inserma and Claude Bernard Lyon University 1 worked with an animal species with brain-like characteristics: rhesus macaques.

Therefore, they studied a group of these primates in their natural state for several months before imaging their brains. “Studying animals in the wild has allowed them to understand a social group in all its complexity. Scientists have thus been able to measure the intensity of interaction with other individuals or even identify the social hierarchical position of an animal. Within a group, explains Inserm in a press release.

Scanners

In parallel with this work on behavioral observation, the scientists analyzed brain scans of individuals in the group, which consisted of 68 adults and 21 young macaques under 6 years of age. They then found that, in adults, the more companions an animal had, the larger certain parts of its brain located in the temporal lobe. More specifically, it was the anterior insula and the middle part of the upper temporal sulcus – areas that are considered important for representing the emotions and perceptions of the behavior of others.

To better understand how this phenomenon develops, scientists have also been able to collect a brain scan of 21 young newborn macaques. Their work thus showed that they were not born with these differences in the size of cerebral structures, but that they were established during their development.

This aspect is interesting, because if we noticed the same correlation in young macaques, it could mean that the birth of a very popular mother (who has a lot of interaction with the group) could predispose the newborn to become popular in On the contrary, our data suggest that differences which we observe in adults were strongly determined by our social environment, perhaps more than by our innate predisposition “, concludes Jérôme Sallet, director of research at Inserm.

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