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Prefrontal and amygdalar foundations of live social gaze interaction


Social interaction involves contingent and dynamic behavioral exchanges among individuals that require agent-specific associations. In humans and non-human primates, interacting with gaze serves a major function in interpersonal communication and coordinated social behaviors. How the primate brain enables social gaze interaction, however, remains elusive. To address this, we investigated spiking activity during spontaneously occurring, face-to-face, social gaze interactions between pairs of rhesus macaques in a large number of neurons (n=1,201) spanning four distinct primate brain regions known to be implicated in social behavior – the anterior cingulate cortex, the orbitofrontal cortex, the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, and the basolateral amygdala. Based on this dataset, we found several lines of evidence supporting that core foundations for social gaze interaction – e.g., social stimulus selectivity, interactive gaze selectivity, and capacity for social gaze monitoring across self and other – are commonly represented by the medial and orbital frontal cortical regions as well as the amygdala. These findings support widespread implementations of neural algorithms relevant for social interaction in the primate brain.

Dr. Chang is an Associate Professor of Psychology, Associate Professor of Neuroscience,
Kavli Institute for Neuroscience, Yale University.

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Dr. Steve Chang