How the Brain Works to Be Social, Even When We're Alone
The human brain focuses on social information and social learning even while at rest and outside of social situations, according to a small study from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.
Earlier research had indicated that two regions of the brain – the medial prefrontal cortex and the tempoparietal junction, which are involved in social functions like evaluating others’ personality traits, mental states, and intentions – experience an increase in connectivity when at rest and are part of the brain’s default network. For this study, the researchers looked at whether these areas of the brain work together to consolidate social information during times of rest and determined they help us learn about our social environment.
They used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which produces images of brain activity, while the 19 participants completed social and non-social tasks. The study subjects also had baseline brain scans and resting scans after performing each task – during which they could think about anything, but had to stay awake. According to the researchers, the fMRIs showed increased connectivity between the medial prefrontal cortex and tempoparietal junction regions of the brain during rest periods after social tasks, and the greater this connectivity, the higher the social memory.