From Sensing to Feeling

Touch is our first emotional language. Like facial expressions, touch communicates emotions and has a profound influence on the receiver. From infancy to old age, touch is at the foundation of social bonds.

Despite the widely recognized importance of touch throughout life, remarkably little is known about how touch and emotions are linked at a cellular level in the brain.

We are exploring neural responses to social touch in the amgdala and in several cortical stages of touch processing including the the primary and secondary somatosensory cortex and the insula.

Oxytocin & Social Behavior

This is one of four projects that are part of a Conte Center awarded to Emory University (P.I. Dr. Larry Young) established to explore the role of oxytocin in social behavior across multiple species.

We are exploring the functional coupling between the amygdala and the nucleus accumbens in the context of a social learning task. In this task, monkeys learn to associate (and develop preference for) previously unfamiliar monkeys with dominant and subordinate behaviors.

Oxytocin is expected to enhance the selectivity of amygdala neurons for individuals. The functional coupling between the amygdala and the nucleus accumbens is expected to inform the monkey’s preference.


Social Status & Facial Expression

Facial expressions provide a window to the social brain. To identify the motor areas involved in the production of facial expressions, we induce monkeys to exchange facial expression with individuals of different social status, while we monitor neural activity in the amygdala and in motor control and action observation areas.