Social Cognition

Androstadienone (AND) is a compound found in male blood and sweat that may act as a chemical signal between individuals. Prior research has shown that women report a more positive mood while being presented with minute amounts of the compound. In addition, AND causes increased attention to social scenes while dampening distraction caused by negative scenes. This project uses fMRI, a brain imaging technique, to explore how the brain responds to presentation of the compound. Dr. McClintock’s lab aims to see whether areas of the brain involved in emotion and attention process social information differently when AND is present. By doing this research, they can build a better picture of how the brain acts during a normal social interaction. Such information will benefit the study of social thought and behavior, and it may provide a new avenue for viewing social deficits.
The critical role of social behavior in human society highlights the need for a complete picture of neural functioning in social situations. In this study, we examine the impact of androstadienone, a putative human pheromone, on social cognition and visual processing. Prior work has demonstrated behavioral and mood responses to the compound even at minute levels below conscious detection. Here, Dr. McClintock uses an fMRI technique to determine how these chemical signals may impact social interaction by modulating neural activity. The modulation of neural circuitry involved in visual attention, social cognition and emotion will provide important information on what is attended or disregarded in customary social behavior. With this knowledge, we will glean a fuller picture of all factors that influence the social brain. Social neuroscience can be more appropriately studied and explained, and psychiatric study can benefit, as the neural basis for range of social deficits (social phobia, autism, etc.) remains unclear to date.

Other Grants

Lindsay M. De Biase, Ph.D., University of California Los Angeles
The Role of Microglial Lysosomes in Selective Neuronal Vulnerability
Synapses, the sites of signaling between neurons in the brain, play essential roles in learning, memory, and the health of neurons themselves. An enduring mystery is why some neurons are…
How the Nervous System Constructs Internal Models of the External World
As animals navigate their environments, they construct internal models of the external sensory world and use these models to guide their behavior. This ability to incorporate ongoing sensory stimuli into…
Xiaojing Gao, Ph.D., Stanford University
When Neural Circuits Meet Molecular Circuits: Quantitative Genetic Manipulation with Single-cell Consistency
Cells are the building blocks of our bodies. We get sick when the cells “misbehave”. The way modern gene therapies work is to introduce genes, fragments of DNA molecules that…
Rafiq Huda, Ph.D., Rutgers University
Conducting the Orchestra of Movement—Functional Role of Striatal Astrocytes in Health and Disease
Movement requires coordinated activity across a large brain-wide network. The striatum is a particularly important part of this circuit; it integrates motor-related information from many distinct brain regions to regulate…