Paper Link: Genetic Origins of social networks in rhesus macaques
Social factors both complicate and enable our economic behavior.
Despite its importance, our understanding of the fundamental neural mechanisms mediating strategic social interaction remains incomplete, due in part to the difficulty of modeling these behaviors in animal models.
In this talk, I will discuss our recent work modeling complex strategic social interactions in monkeys. Both monkeys and humans played two different games—one based on the classic economic game “chicken” and a second based on penalty kicks in soccer—while we monitored behavior, tracked gaze, and measured pupil size. In monkeys, we recorded neuronal activity in two brain areas, the temporoparietal junction (TPJ) and anterior cingulate gyrus (ACCG) which have been implicated in theory of mind and empathy, respectively. Despite the multidimensional nature of both games, humans and monkeys played in a remarkably similar fashion, and their patterns of gaze and pupillary responses—a measure of arousal and attention—were virtually indistinguishable. These data suggest similar underlying mechanisms mediate these strategic social interactions in both species.
We found that neurons in the primate homolog of TPJ signaled information about social context, goals and intentions, reward outcomes for self and other, strategy, and predictions about whether the other player would cooperate based on prior interactions. By contrast, neuronsinACCg only signaled information about payoffs for self and other. Together, these findings indicate neurons in TPJ multiplex information underlying complex strategic social interactions. The presence of these neurons in monkeys belies the notion that these processes that are so fundamental to human behavior and economics are uniquely human.