April 20, 2024

Unveiling the Neural Encoding of Social Behavior in Monkey Brains During Everyday Tasks

A groundbreaking study conducted by neuroscientists at the University of Pennsylvania has shed light on how social interactions are encoded in the monkey brain while engaging in routine tasks, rather than in controlled laboratory settings. Published in the prestigious journal Nature, the research involved monitoring the brain activity of adult male macaques as they carried out their regular activities.

Traditionally, studies exploring brain function have been conducted in sterile lab environments, leaving a gap in understanding how the brain responds during everyday situations for both humans and animals. The researchers aimed to address this gap by observing the brain activity of adult male lab macaques in three scenarios: alone, interacting with another male, and interacting with a familiar female partner.

Four adult rhesus macaques participated in the experiments, with neural recording devices implanted in the male subjects. Prior to the experiments, the males were equipped with neural implants to monitor activity in the prefrontal and temporal cortex regions. Each interactive session lasted approximately 2.5 hours, during which the researchers identified 24 distinct behavioral patterns in various social contexts.

One notable finding was the high level of reciprocity observed between males and females during grooming interactions. The study also revealed that when a male faced an aggressive intruder, both its behavioral and neural responses exhibited signs of empathy, particularly when accompanied by a friendly female partner.

The research team concluded that the experiment highlighted the complex and distributed neural responses associated with a range of everyday activities. They suggested that similar neural patterns likely exist in the human brain, emphasizing the importance of studying social behavior in naturalistic settings to gain a comprehensive understanding of brain function.

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