Neural Connections Foster Social Connections: A Diffusion-Weighted Imaging Study of Social Networks

Social Cognitive Affective Neuroscience (SCAN) (forthcoming)

Fox School of Business Research Paper No. 16-004

Posted: 20 Dec 2015 Last revised: 16 Dec 2016

See all articles by William Hampton

William Hampton

Temple University - Department of Psychology; Decision Neuroscience

Ashley Unger

Temple University

Rebecca Von Der Heide

ACNielsen

Ingrid Olson

Temple University - Department of Psychology

Date Written: December 15, 2015

Abstract

While we know the transition from childhood to adulthood is marked by important social and neural development, little is known about how social network size might affect neurocognitive development or vice versa. Neuroimaging research has identified several brain regions, such as the amygdala, as key to this affiliative behavior. However, white matter connectivity among these regions, and its behavioral correlates, remain unclear. Here we tested two hypotheses: that an amygdalocentric structural white matter network governs social affiliative behavior and that this network changes during adolescence and young adulthood. We measured social network size behaviorally, and white matter microstructure using probabilistic diffusion tensor imaging in a sample of neurologically normal adolescents and young adults. Our results suggest amygdala white matter microstructure is key to understanding individual differences in social network size, with connectivity to other social brain regions such as the orbitofrontal cortex and anterior temporal lobe predicting much variation. In addition, participant age correlated with both network size and white matter variation in this network. These findings suggest the transition to adulthood may constitute a critical period for the optimization of structural brain networks underlying affiliative behavior.

Keywords: social network, diffusion imaging, white matter, friendship, adolescence

Suggested Citation

Hampton, William and Unger, Ashley and Von Der Heide, Rebecca and Olson, Ingrid, Neural Connections Foster Social Connections: A Diffusion-Weighted Imaging Study of Social Networks (December 15, 2015). Social Cognitive Affective Neuroscience (SCAN) (forthcoming), Fox School of Business Research Paper No. 16-004, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2704167

William Hampton (Contact Author)

Temple University - Department of Psychology ( email )

Weiss Hall
1701 N. 13th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

Decision Neuroscience ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

Ashley Unger

Temple University ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

Rebecca Von Der Heide

ACNielsen

United States

Ingrid Olson

Temple University - Department of Psychology ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

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