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Our brains evolved to deal with increasing demands of dynamic social interactions. Social behaviors are reward driven, whether their motivating factors are physical rewards, such as food and sex, or more abstract rewards, such as vicarious experience and interpersonal reputation. Investigating how the brain computes social preferences and mediates prosocial and antisocial decisions can offer an ecologically valid and efficient way of unlocking the mystery of the mind. Importantly, social interactions are inherently dynamic and contingent. Therefore, investigating how the brain computes social information during dynamic and contingent interactions will reveal novel insights into the neural mechanisms underlying social behavior. Elucidating these neural mechanisms will ultimately help treat social deficits in numerous psychiatric disorders.
Our research is aimed at understanding the neural mechanisms responsible for social cognition. Our laboratory focuses on how the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala signal social decisions and mediate social gaze dynamics. To answer our questions, we apply both neurophysiological and neuropharmacological approaches during real-life social interactions. In a subset of topics, we also study similar neural processes using neuroimaging techniques.