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'Shifty-eyed' Monkeys Offer Window Into Brain's Social Reflexes

exactly what we found with both humans and monkeys.' Thus, he said, the subjects were 'covertly' shifting their attention before obviously shifting their gaze.

Although prior studies have shown that monkeys sometimes turn their head and eyes when they see another individual turn and look to the side, the study by Deaner and Platt provides the first evidence that monkeys reflexively and internally shift their attention where another individual is looking. The subjects also provided other more subtle clues that their attention had reflexively shifted in the direction of the monkey-image gaze, said Platt. An instant after the monkey images appeared, the subjects showed infinitesimal, involuntary eye movements in the same direction the monkey image was looking, found Deaner and Platt.

Also importantly, said Platt, the shift in attention was very temporary, as would be expected if it were not immediately reinforced by something happening in the direction of the monkey-image gaze. The reflexive tendency to follow gaze is, indeed, powerful, said Platt. 'It's really striking when you're sitting there, and you look at these faces pop up,' he said. 'You feel yourself wanting to look in that same direction.' Platt said that the finding offers the promise of a manipulable animal model of 'social attention' -- how the human brain assesses the goals and intentions of other humans and responds to them. 'It's been long known what parts of the human brain are involved in identifying and recognizing other individuals as well as those parts of the brain involved in shifting attention,' said Platt. 'And there have been new magnetic resonance imaging studies that show that both these parts of the brain respond to such social cues as gaze. 'But to get a real understanding of how this response is accomplished at a neuronal level, you need an animal model that you can manipulate physiologically,' said Platt. 'This is the first time it has been shown that such a cognitive a
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Source:DukeHealth


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