Shared neural coding for social hierarchy and reward value in primate amygdala

NHP picture, libre de droit/credit: Ovsyannykov I.

Jérôme MUNUERA
Former Fyssen 2010

Nature Neuroscience
Shared neural coding for social hierarchy and reward value in primate amygdala
Jérôme Munuera, Mattia Rigotti & C. Daniel Salzman

Scientific abstract: The social brain hypothesis posits that dedicated neural systems process social information. In support of this, neurophysiological data have shown that some brain regions are specialized for representing faces. It remains unknown, however, whether distinct anatomical substrates also represent more complex social variables, such as the hierarchical rank of individuals within a social group. Here we show that the primate (Rhesus macaque) amygdala encodes the hierarchical rank of individuals in the same neuronal ensembles that encode the rewards associated with nonsocial stimuli. By contrast, orbitofrontal and anterior cingulate cortices lack strong representations of hierarchical rank while still representing reward values. These results challenge the conventional view that dedicated neural systems process social information. Instead, information about hierarchical rank-which contributes to the assessment of the social value of individuals within a group-is linked in the amygdala to representations of rewards associated with nonsocial stimuli.

« Notre étude révèle que l’amygdale – une aire cérébrale spécialisée dans le traitement des émotions – signale également le statut hiérarchique des individus appartenant à un même groupe social. Ce mécanisme neuronal est certainement primordial pour la régulation de nos comportements socio-émotionnels dans des environnements sociaux généralement complexes. »

About the author: portraitJM
In 2010, after the completion of his Ph.D. in neuroscience at the Institute of Cognitive Sciences (ISC, Lyon, France) where he investigated cognitive mechanisms involved in sensory motor transformation, Jérôme Munuera has been enrolled successively as a Post-Doc and Associate Research Scientist in the Department of Neuroscience at Columbia University (New York, USA). His main research line focuses on the interactions between decision making processes and emotional states.
Since October 2017, Jérôme is now working at the Brain and Spine Institute (‘Experimental neurosurgery team’, ICM, Paris) in collaboration with the Jean Nicod Institute (ENS, Paris).