“Social networks” in the brain

Healthcare News | 2012-02-23

Pair scanned in MAGNETOM Skyra 3T

A major function of the human brain involves mediating interactions with other people, such as interpersonal communication and physical contact. Understanding such dynamic interactions between two minds is essential for characterizing human social behavior. Ray Lee, PhD, Technical Director for Neuroimaging at Princeton University in New Jersey, USA performs dyadic functional magnetic resonance imaging (dfMRI) scans on two individuals simultaneously inside of a MAGNETOM® Skyra 3 Tesla magnetic resonance (MR) system to learn more about human social interactions.1

Human interaction triggers brain activation

Observation of social interaction

The methodology and technology used in direct dfMRI demonstrates a new platform from which a full spectrum of dyadic social cognitions can be quantitatively studied; including, developmental disorders like autism. “Our research indicates that direct interaction between two human brains can be observed and characterized by dfMRI of the brain using our newly developed dual-head MRI detection system,” explains Lee. “The gathered data provides insight beyond facial expression, and into the internal mental reactions and processes that occur when two people are with close proximity to each other.”

Close relationships trigger greater brain activity

In order to simplify responses, the current study design is limited to mutual gazing. To achieve mutual interaction, dyadic pairs are instructed to simultaneously open and close their eyes periodically, gazing at each other during open eye intervals. Throughout the scan, pairs are also instructed to open and close their eyes alternately, so that no mutual visual contact occurs. Data gathered from these mutual gazing studies suggests that the brain state is highly dependent on the pairs’ relationship. The regions activated in the brain are known to be associated with social cognitive interaction, specifically intense mutual engagement, with a strong focus on another individual and even arousal.


Partner for research activities

Princeton University added a MAGNETOM Skyra to their Neuroimaging department. This latest achievement offers state-of-the-art technology, including Tim (Total imaging matrix) and Dot (Day optimizing throughput), as well as powerful XQ gradients that support the performance for many clinical or research applications. Furthermore, MAGNETOM Skyra presents the 70cm Open Bore design which derives great advantages, such as the largest viewing angle for stimulus presentation and plenty of space for patients and research devices.

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1 The concepts and information presented in this paper are based on research and are not commercially available.

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