Guest Talk: Kai Vogeley

02 February 2015
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Detecting and evaluating social information

Over the last decade, cognitive neuroscience has started to systematically study the neural mechanisms of social cognition or social information processing. Essentially, two different neural systems have been established in this research domain that appear to constitute two different routes of processing underlying our social cognitive capacities in everyday social encounters, namely the so-called “mirror neuron system” (MNS) and the “social neural network” (SNN, also theory of mind network or mentalizing network). The functional roles of both systems appear to be complementary. The MNS serves comparatively “early” stages of social information processing that are more related to spatial or bodily signals expressed in the behaviour of others and supports the “detection” of potential social salience, including observation of other persons actions. Complementary to the functional role of the MNS, the SNN serves comparatively “late” stages of social information processing that are more related to the “evaluation” of emotional and psychological states of others that have to be inferred as inner mental experience from the behaviour of this person. Empirical studies on the neural mechanisms of ongoing social interactions with others show that essentially SNN components are recruited during the experience of social encounters together with the reward system of the brain.