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Monkey Brain Gives Clues to Human Interaction
Date:3/20/2008

y of the neurons provided us with information about the value of choosing one image over another -- regardless if the reward is an expected social reward or juice," Platt said.

However, the neurons in the parietal cortex did not fire when the monkeys were shown the images but didn't have to make a choice about which image to view.

"To decide between apples and oranges or between looking at an attractive female or getting a drink, the brain must evaluate these objects in a way that permits direct comparison," Platt said. "Our research found that by the time value signals have reached the parietal cortex, they are already translated in a way that enables comparison and decision-making."

This research, published in the journal Current Biology, improves understanding of how a normal brain reacts in social situations and guides behavior. The research also provides possible insights into autism. People with the disorder have social behavior disabilities and often have trouble looking at other people.

"Monkeys are motivated to look at some individuals and not at others. We demonstrated that this social motivation to look at others is mediated by neurons in the parietal cortex. It's possible that deficiencies in the way 'social' areas of the brain communicate with 'attention' areas of the brain may be corrupted in autism," Platt said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about autism.



-- Robert Preidt



SOURCE: Duke University, news release, March 20, 2008


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