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Fitting The World to Minds: Brain Basis of Sharing and Transmitting Representations of the Social World (Social Brain)
Start date: Apr 1, 2013, End date: Mar 31, 2018 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Understanding other peoples’ minds is one of the most fundamental human skills but also the most demanding challenge our brains pose every day: To understand each other, we need to share neural representations of the external world across brains. Studying how social information is represented similarly across individual brains and how it flows from brain to brain poses huge conceptual and technical challenges for neuroscientists, who have consequently resorted to experiments using simplistic and impoverished social stimuli. However, recent advances in brain signal analysis enable us to study the brain basis of social interaction under naturalistic settings with unparalleled accuracy. This neuroimaging project aims to bridge the gap between social psychology and cognitive neuroscience by building a comprehensive neurocognitive model of how individuals maintain and communicate shared neural representations of the dynamic social world. The framework relies on testing the assumption that similarities in sensory and higher-order processing across individuals can be quantified by measuring temporal synchronization of their brain activity. We use novel signal analysis methods, experimental techniques and rapid magnetic resonance image acquisition for testing i) whether selective synchronization of brain circuits during social interaction supports interpersonal understanding, ii) whether similarities in cognitive task sets across individuals are associated with increasingly synchronous brain activity, and iii) whether intense emotional experiences enhance synchronization of brain responses and flow of information from brain to brain. The results will significantly improve our understanding of the brain dynamics of social interaction, and the proposed naturalistic neuroscience approach and will potentially contribute to a significant paradigm shift in social and cognitive neuroscience.
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