Foundations in Social Neuroscience Paperback – 5 Nov 2002
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"Successful third editions of large reference works must be reliable sources for their field, and Gazzaniga's *The Cognitive Neurosciences* certainly is, authored by a remarkable group of contributors. But this book is far more: it is full of exciting chapters touching on such newly important fields as adult neurogenesis, and it embraces controversy where appropriate. In my view, this already superb text has only gotten better."--Steven E. Hyman, Provost, Harvard University, and Professor of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School "This excellent book will no doubt result in new directions for studies of the mind and the brain, bridging the social, biological and psychological aspects of human behavior."--Kenneth Hugdahl, Professor of Biological Psychology, University of Bergen, NorwayPlease note: Endorser gives permission to excerpt from quote. "One of the most exciting frontiers of knowledge is how social behavior depends upon the brain and, at the same time, how social context and social behavior exert powerful effects on brain function. Unfortunately the gulf between neuroscience and understandings of the social world remains enormous. Cacioppo and colleagues have performed a great service with this volume by documenting the importance of crossing this gulf and highlighting significant ways in which it can be done."--Steven E. Hyman, Provost, Harvard University, and Professor of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School "This book superbly captures the immense excitement that many in the brain, cognitive, and social sciences feel about prospect of unraveling the secrets of the human mind. The benefits of this agenda for mankind will be enormous. Anyone interested in the direction this work is taking will enjoy reading this comprehensive collection of essays."--Marcus E. Raichle, Professor of Radiology and Neurology, Washington University School of Medicine "Neuroscientists and social scientists are on a converging course as both now seek a brain-based understanding of human behaviors. This wonderful book captures the excitement and promise of this important multidisciplinary endeavor, while serving as an important resource for information on the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead."--Marcus E. Raichle, Professor of Radiology and Neurology, Washington University School of Medicine
About the Author
Richard J. Davidson is the William James and Vilas Research Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin. He is coeditor of Brain Asymmetry (MIT Press, 1994) and Foundations in Social Neuroscience (MIT Press, 2001).
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The article entitled "Neural Correlates of Theory-of-Mind Reasoning: An Event-Related Potential Study", is an attempt to find the neural system that is behind reasoning about mental states. Such a finding is deemed important by the authors of this article, since an impairment of this system may result in autism. They quote research that is suggestive of the idea that the ability to think about mental representations of reality, such as beliefs, is not correlated with the ability to think about other kinds of representations of reality, such as photographs. Autistic individuals have trouble with the former but not with the latter. The authors outline experimental tests that illustrate these differences, and also discuss experiments that show that autistic individuals show greater impairment for left-hemispheric tasks. The implications of these studies for a modularized theory of mind is discussed in some detail, and they conclude these studies give evidence for the assertion that neurophysiological abnormalities in autistic individuals is related to deficits in their social cognitive abilities.
For this reviewer, the most interesting article in the book is the one entitled "Attention, Self-Regulation, and Consciousness", which as the name implies, addresses the study of consciousness. The scientific study of consciousness is finally being taken seriously by cognitive neuroscientists, and this article gives a good example of this. The authors concentrate on the voluntary control of the mental processes that are responsible for the regulation of behavior and thought. They clearly have no qualms at being at odds with entrenched philosophical notions of consciousness and voluntary control. The neuronal system that is responsible for the regulation of thought, emotion, and behavior, is, in their view, one that consists of the midfrontal cortical areas and the underlying basal ganglia. This system has been called the `executive network' by cognitive neuroscientists, and is active for tasks involving selection, conflict, and error detection. The authors discuss various experiments that were conducted to investigate the brain mechanisms behind these three tasks. For selection, the experiment involved the reading of individual words and monitoring (using PET) the brain activity in finding the use of the words. The `scalp signatures' of some of these activations, along with the PET and later fMRI studies, reveal the dynamics involved in the creation of a single thought. The fMRI data revealed even more, namely that different areas are activated when different semantic categories are processed. Most interesting is that these experiments revealed that the neuronal activity in an area that is attended to inhibits items that are far outside of the category attended to. When elements of a task are in conflict, it is expected that executive control will perform the selected function. Experiments involving the Stroop effect revealed that the midline frontal areas are involved in the resolution of conflict between tasks, but that they are not involved in the feelings of conflict and effort. The supervisory attention system is also concerned with error detection, which the authors view as a conscious strategy to adjust the performance speed to a level of accuracy that is deemed adequate. Experiments revealed that error negativity is localized in the anterior cingulate gyrus, but that the areas of activation of the cingulate were different depending on the task demand.
Still another highly interesting article is entitled "In Search of the Self: A Positron Emission Tomography Study" wherein the authors study the assertion that the association of episodic memory retrieval with the activation of right prefrontal cortex can be attributed to the representation of the self in this portion of the brain. In addition, the authors wanted to find out if there was any evidence for the neural correlates of self-referential processing, i.e. does an individual for example remember a word better if it is reference with respect to the self rather than just processed in semantic terms? In the opinion of the authors, if the self is involved in the activation of the right frontal regions in a manner which is independent of the nature of the cognitive operation, then self-referential encoding will also be associated with PET activations that are mainly right lateralized. If the self-referential encoding is associated with activations in the left frontal regions, then it would be similar to other types of (deeper) processing. Experiments were conducted that enabled a comparison between semantic "self", "other", and "general" tasks, and nonsemantic "syllable" tasks. These experiments revealed that adjectives judged semantically were better recognized in a later test than adjectives judged in terms of the number of syllables. Adjectives in the "self" condition were better recognized than those in the "other" and "general" conditions, thus indicating a self-reference effect in memory. Most interesting is the authors' contention that the similarities in cortical activation patterns between the "self" condition and the "other" and "general" conditions reveal that thoughts of self involve a "conceptual self", i.e. a representational schema that arises from an abstraction of several personal episodes. Quoting other researchers, they view the self as a "highly-organized cognitive structure" abstracted from individual instances. Individuals who are brain-damaged and do not possess episodic memory but who can form accurate judgments about their personality characteristics provide further evidence for their assertions.
FOUNDATIONS IN SOCIAL NEUROSCIENCE is a hefty volume (1357 pages) demonstrating that neuroscience is now old enough to be married to human adaptive experience. Like the Zuni word "slosh" it reminds us that nature abhors boundaries as well as vacuums. FOUNDATIONS evidences meaningful synthesis and integration, working up and down the conceptual ladder from the micro to the macro and back again. Transduction processes are explicated from mRNA to hormonal development to tactile comforting to social capital and then back to mRNA, as environmental circumstances feed forward and back to affect neurophysiological and neurochemical ones in the ongoing dynamics of human adaptation.
FOUNDATIONS IN SOCIAL NEUROSCIENCE is also, in a sense, a birth announcement of a novel interdiscipline. This is concretized in a very unusual arrangement, the kind one comes to expect from The University of Chicago, where John T. Cacioppo, the first listed editor of this volume, is the Tiffany & Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor, Director of the Social Psychology Program AND Director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience. Other editors include Gary G. Berntson, Ralph Adolphs, C. Sue Carter and eight others whose names are a Who's Who in the biological and social sciences. Thus FOUNDATIONS might well be called the bible of this newly emerging integrative program, with newer testaments added by professors Cacioppo and Berntson and colleagues more recently. (Cf. J.T. Cacioppo & G.G. Berntson, Eds., ESSAYS IN SOCIAL NEUROSCIENCE, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004; J.T. Cacioppo & G.G. Berntson, Eds.. SOCIAL NEUROSCIENCE: KEY READINGS. New York: Psychology Press, 2004; J.T. Cacioppo, P.S. Visser, & C.L. Pickett, Eds.. SOCIAL NEUROSCIENCE: PEOPLE THINKING ABOUT THINKING PEOPLE. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005.
A short list of FOUNDATIONS accomplishments includes 1) the significant effort toward the creation of harmony out of the disciplines of genetics, physiology, immunology, endocrinology, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, personality psychology and sociology 2) the description of a relatively seamless connectedness from DNA to social experience to DNA, 3) the taxonomic outline of Social Neuroscience as a scientific interdiscipline: (A) Multilevel Integrative Analysis of Social Behavior, (B) Social Cognition and the Brain, (C) Social Neuroscience of Motivation, Emotion, and Attitudes, (D) Biology of Social Relationships and Interpersonal Processes, (E) Social Influences on Biology and Health, and 4) the collection of seminal research in social neuroscience between the covers of one very big book. At least implicitly, numerous chapters challenge Francis Crick's "Central Dogma" and the notion of locked in and closed off genetic material impervious to adaptive environmental influences.
FOUNDATIONS has 83 chapters but the one by Liu, Diorio, et al. (Chap. 48: Maternal care, hippocampal glucocorticoid receptors and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal responses to stress), which reports on the research program from the Montreal laboratory of Michael Meaney at McGill, gives a very good sense of the integration from mRNA to hormonal and neural development to social activity and then back again to mRNA. The authors pick up on the work of Levine a half century ago on the post-partum handling of rat pups, who when compared to non-handled ones, had reduced responses to stress. Levine's work revealed that the handling affected the stress response including hormonal release (adrenal corticosterone). Liu and colleagues report on a series of experiments showing that handling affects pup behavior (increased ultrasonic vocalizations), which affects maternal care (pattern of licking and grooming), which affects variability in the expression of mRNA in various systems, which affects neural and hormonal system development (parvocellular neurons of the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus), which affects inhibitory feedback of the stress response (in rats, level of release of corticotrophin releasing hormone) and raises the possibility of non-genomic modes of inheritance. (For more on non-genomic inheritance see: E. Jablonka & M.J. Lamb, EVOLUTION IN FOUR DIMENSIONS. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005).
FOUNDATIONS is an extraordinary exposition that is a must read for life and social scientists as well as those life-long learners interested in human adaptation. An excellent companion volume is by Bruce S. McEwen and H. Maurice Goodman, Eds.. HANDBOOK OF PHYSIOLOGY: COPING WITH THE ENVIRONMENT: Vol. IV. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2001. See also, A. R. Cellura's THE GENOMIC ENVIRONMENT AND NICHE-EXPERIENCE. Abbeville, SC: Cedar Springs Press, 2005, for the confluence of genomic influences, central nervous system development, economic regimes, ecological niches, caloric intake, stature, morbidity and mortality.
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